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Turkey: Penal System
Country Study > Chapter 5 > National Security > Crime and Punishment > Penal System


The civil penal system is administered by the General Directorate of Prisons and Houses of Detention in the Ministry of Justice. There is a prison or jail in almost every town and at least one in every district. The older penal institutions include most of the town and district jails and the larger provincial prisons in use since Ottoman times. These are gradually being supplemented by newer "penitentiary labor establishments" whose distinguishing feature is the availability of equipment for labor. Prison labor is compulsory for all in old and new prisons. Prisoners are allowed to send up to one-half of their prison earnings to a dependent; part is withheld for rations, and the remainder goes to the prisoner upon discharge. Prisons were previously known to be overcrowded, but the apparent reduction in jail sentences for common crimes and the commutation of longer sentences may have mitigated the problem.

According to official data, the number of convicts in prisons declined from more than 46,000 in 1984 to 10,656 in 1991. The drop in the prison population took place mainly between 1986 and 1991, when mass releases occurred. When the large number sentenced to prison is compared with the small prison population at any one time, it appears that many convicts serve sentences of only a few months. Persons classified as political prisoners or terrorists are apparently regarded separately because more than 32,000 were incarcerated in 1991 under the "special laws" category.

By and large, Turks accept the Muslim view that crime is a willful act and thus regard penalties as punishment for the act and as a means to deter similar acts, not as instruments of rehabilitation or reeducation. There has been a trend among some specialists and Turkish officials to view criminal acts as the product of social conditions and therefore to emphasize rehabilitation, but this view has had only limited influence on penal practice.

Whereas torture of both political and ordinary prisoners by security forces is a deep-rooted problem, much of it occurs prior to court hearings. Incidents arising from mistreatment in prisons have been decreasing in recent years. However, in two cases mentioned in 1992 by the international human rights group Amnesty International, large numbers of prisoners were beaten, some seriously, for protesting against prison disciplinary measures.

After widespread hunger strikes in 1989, the minister of justice introduced a number of reforms to improve prison conditions, including an end to corporal punishment, bread-and-water diets, and solitary confinement in unlighted cells. The government, however, continued to be faced with domestic and international criticism and subsequently announced a prison reform bill in 1993. At the end of 1994, parliament had not enacted promised prison reforms.Discussion in this chapter of the size, organization, and armaments of the Turkish armed forces is based in part on The Military Balance, 1994-1995 , published by the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London, and on Jane's Fighting Ships, 1994-95 Additional material can be found in the section on Turkey by Mark Stenhouse in Jane's NATO Handbook, 1991-92 .

An authoritative statement by Turkish chief of staff General Dogan G├╝res on the new strategy and restructuring of the armed forces is contained in the June 1993 issue of the Journal of the Royal United Services Institute for Defence Studies . Graham E. Fuller and other authors address Turkey's changed geostrategic situation following the collapse of the Soviet Union in Turkey's New Geopolitics: From the Balkans to Western China . Turkish military leaders analyze the missions and capabilities of the individual service branches in a series of articles in a special 1993 issue of NATO's Sixteen Nations called "Defence of Turkey."

A book by a noted Turkish journalist, Mehmet Ali Birand, Shirts of Steel: An Anatomy of the Turkish Armed Forces , provides previously unfamiliar details on the military education system, military traditions and institutions, and the perspectives and aspirations of career officers.

Discussion of Turkey's human rights record can be found in publications by Amnesty International and in the annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices published by the United States Department of State. (For further information and complete citations, see Bibliography.)

Data as of January 1995

Last Updated: January 1995

Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Turkey was first published in 1995. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on

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