Date of the report
Author(s)Civil Society for the Penal System (CISST) / Other confidential sources

Contact with the outside world

Two types of visits are possible:

  • regular visits, without separation measures
  • non-contact visits, with a window that separates prisoners from their visitors

The maximum number of visitors permitted at one time differs from one prison to another. In 2017, Sakarya prison management reduced the number from ten to five. At Kocaeli Kandira prison there are eight people per visit, including children.

Conjugal visits are allowed to married couples in cases of good behaviour, however this is not available to LGBTIQ inmates.

Contact visits

According to the law, contact visitation without separation are accessible once a month. Their duration varies, from one prison to another.
Prisoners of Nazilli have the right to weekly visits of 45 minutes. Visits last 30 minutes in the prison of Duzce, and 20 minutes in other institutions, as in the Silivri prison. At the Edirne High Security Prison, visits can last up to an hour.
Persons imprisoned at Kocaeli Kandira Prison are entitled to a monthly visit of 40 minutes 1.

"Non-contact visits"

According to the law, non-contact visits are a disciplinary measure in which prisoners communicate with their loved ones on a telephone. These visits are possible once a week.
Bars are installed behind the separating pane at Usak Prison. They prevent prisoners from seeing clearly the faces of their visitors.
The non-contact visits are held three times a month in the Salihli prison. They have a bimonthly frequency at Osmaniye Prison.

Visits following the state of emergency

The state of emergency declared since the attempted coup has tightened policies regarding maintaining family ties. Contact visits are now permitted in some prisons only once every two months.
Denying the right to visits is used as a punishment by the prison authorities. In Usak prison, the administration sometimes cancels contact visits without warning the prisoners or their visitors. Visits are cancelled during Ramadan. During visits families may be separated by a table, preventing prisoners from embracing their loved ones.
Dozens of women who came to visit their imprisoned husbands in January 2017 were in turn imprisoned, sometimes with their children 2.

  1. Platform for Peace & Justice, p.9.   

  2. Journalists and Writers Foundation, "Women's rights under attack in Turkey", 2017, p. 53. 

The rules governing correspondence, telephone calls, and their frequency, vary from one prison to another.


Incoming and outgoing mail are systematically read by a commission before being forwarded to their addressees. When written in a foreign language, the transmission time of these letters takes more time than ever and they are sometimes never delivered to their addressees.
In Kocaeli Kandira Prison, prisoners are allowed to correspond as much as they wish. Correspondence is forbidden in Tekirdag and Silivri Prisons.
In Kirklareli Prison letters and faxes are not sent to prisoners during the first months of their imprisonment. After this period they can receive and send mail three days a week.

Telephone calls

Recipients of telephone calls must be approved by the management of the establishment. Their family or lawyer must provide a phone bill and the validation procedure lasts between one and two weeks. Foreign telephone numbers must be validated by consulates or embassies which sometimes takes six months to a year.
Mobile phones are not allowed. The cost of telephone calls is at the expenses of the prisoners.
The conversations between prisoners and their lawyers have been, since the decree of state of emergency, listened to and recorded in certain establishments.
In Kocaeli Kandira and Tekirdag prisons, prisoners have the right to call their family members twice a month for ten minutes. The number of phone call destinations for each prisoner is limited to three, which is validated in advance by the management of the establishment.
In the Silivri prison there are two communications per month. Their duration is limited to eight minutes and the call can only occur on national lines. No exceptions are made, even in case of emergency.
Amnesty International Turkey Director Idil Eser, imprisoned in Silivri Prison, has no access to telephone or mail 1 and only receives messages sent by her lawyer.

  1. "A journey into the dark heart of Turkey's prison system" in Newsweek, December 2017 (in English). 

A presidential pardon is provided for by article 104 of the Constitution: it allows "to reduce or commute a prison sentence on grounds of chronic illness, infirmity or advanced age" 1. Amnesty laws may be passed by the Turkish Parliament.
In August 2016, the government announced that 38,000 prisoners would benefit from early release under judicial supervision. Many observers see this as a strategy of freeing up places for those arrested after the coup attempt in July.
The number of people who were granted conditional release in 2016 is 81.
Prisoners who show good conduct may be transferred to semi-open prisons at the end of their sentence.

Alternatives to incarceration

Community service exists as an alternative to incarceration: 29,707 people received this sentence in 2016.
Placement under electronic surveillance is provided by the law and has been applied since February 2013.
Up to 3,000 people were placed under electronic surveillance in April 2017, including 359 people accused of being members of the Gülen movement. These people are being monitored from a center based in Istanbul. The Director General of Prisons and Detention Centers says the device can monitor up to 5,000 people.

  1. Information, Documentation and Research Division of the French Office for the Protection of Refugees and Stateless Persons, "Prison in perpetuity. Possibilities of commutation, development and parole", March 2017, p. 11. 

Some prisoners participate in court hearings from prison via the SEGBIS, an audio-visual communication interface. This measure mainly concerns prisoners who are serving their sentence in a prison away from the court in charge of their case.
Meetings with lawyers are sometimes considered too short to prepare an effective defence. In the Silivri prison, duration is limited to 20 minutes per week 1. It is 30 minutes to Kirkaleri Prison.
The procedures for interviewing lawyers vary from one institution to another. Lawyers can speak freely with their clients at Kirkaleri Prison. Lawyers' visits to Burhaniye Prison are permitted once a week. Lawyers rarely visit their clients at Manisa Prison, saying they feel threatened. Lawyers who have been assigned show little interest in defending some prisoners, according to Safak Pavey, a member of parliament of the Republican People's Party (CHP, opposition party).

The defence of political prisoners

People accused of having links with the coup face difficulties in finding a lawyer willing to defend them.
A decree established following the attempted putsch, stipulates that the interviews of people suspected to be members of the Gülen movement with their lawyers will be videotaped. These interviews, as well as visits with their relatives, should take place in the presence of a prison supervisor. These measures apply to everyone in some prisons. The presence of surveillance cameras in the visiting rooms has become commonplace in some prisons, such as Silivri and Bandirma.

Complaint procedures

Prisoners may lodge complaints about prison administration with the any of following:

  • Enforcement Court
  • Prison Prosecutor
  • Administrative justice
  • Constitutional Court
  • Human Rights and Equality Council (ombudsman)
  • Prison control commissions
  • Local ombudsman offices.

The Human Rights Office of the Central Section of the Prison Service states that in the course of 2016 it received 819 complaints2:

  • 323 from NGOs
  • 151 from the Commission on Human Rights of the Parliament
  • 195 from persons deprived of their liberty, their relatives or legal representative. These complaints include grievances related to overcrowding, the right to correspondence, cultural and social activities, family visits, food, medical visits, extractions, and abuse.

A report by the Union of Turkish Bar Associations on human rights (2016-2017) outlined the number of complaints of ill-treatment lodged by prisoners against staff:

  • From 1 January to 15 July 2016 (before the coup attempt): 344 complaints
  • From 15 July to 31 December 2016: 89 complaints
  • From 1st January 2017 to May 2017: 194 complaints

Prosecutions initiated as a result of these complaints are underway for the majority.
Complaint procedures against cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment often remain unanswered.

Inmates in the Bilecik and Elazig closed prisons addressed 228 requests to the prison authorities in 2016. The guards used intimidation and abusive tactics to force inmates to withdraw their complaints including: frequent cell searches, insults, beatings, and cold showers. The administration prosecuted the complainants for inciting violence within the institution, and at least ten inmates were transferred to another prison.

The President of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), Guido Raimondi, cited 5,363 complaints filed by Turkish nationals between July and December 2016 (after the coup attempt). He reported a 276% increase over the previous year.

The ECHR strongly encourages complainants to exhaust all existing remedies in Turkey before making a request to the Court. The court rejected a judge's appeal concerning his pre-trial imprisonment in November 2016 for non-exhaustion of domestic remedies.

  1. Platform for Peace and Justice, p. 14. 

  2. Figures provided in the 2016 activity report of the Prison Service. 

In 2011, Turkey ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

The National Institute of Human Rights was created in 2013. It was designated in January 2014 as the national preventive mechanism. The Human Rights and Equality Council replaced it in April 2016 and it entered into force in March 2017. It is composed of eleven members: three are appointed by the President of the Republic and eight by the Council of Ministers. This form of appointment compromises the autonomy of NPM members vis-à-vis the executive. Its budget is allocated by the Prime Minister which limits his impartiality. No reports have been published to date.

The Council for Human Rights and Equality may be seized by prisoners or civil society organisations. CISST brought several queries but none have succeeded. National human rights associations do not consider this institution independent.

Other national prison monitoring bodies exist 1:

  • internal bodies: enforcement judges (infazhakimleri), prosecutors, inspectors of the Ministry of Justice and management controllers of the general directorate of prisons and detention centers.
  • external bodies: the Ombudsman Institution, the Parliament's Human Rights Commission. The latter published in 2015, 30 reports on conditions of detention; and only one reportin 2016 on the prison of Tekirdag.

International control bodies

European or international bodies occasionally visit Turkish prisons.The last visit of the CPT took place from May 10 to 23, 2017.

The Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment carried out a mission in Turkey from 27 November to 2 December 2016.