Justice Ministry to complete construction of 68 prisons by year-end, double the planned figure

The Turkish Justice Ministry has failed to reach many of its goals this year, but in one way it has excelled. The Ministry will complete the construction of 68 prisons by year-end, nearly double the 39 new prisons it had planned.

Duvar English 

Despite falling short of many of its 2021 goals, the Turkish Justice Ministry has exceeded them in one critical way. The Ministry had planned to build 39 new prisons over the course of the year; but according to new reporting by daily Sözcü, the Ministry will actually complete 68 by year-end. 

The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP)-led government under President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has massively expanded the number of prisons (and prisoners) in Turkey. This push has happened in particular since the July 2016 coup attempt and subsequent jailing of thousands of dissidents and citizens accused of terrorist activity. Currently, it is estimated that 291,198 people are imprisoned in Turkey, based on the Justice Ministry numbers, or 347 per every 100,000 people. However, it is possible that this number is far higher due to prisoners being held in illegal or pre-trial detention.

Another 40 prisons are planned to be built in the next three years. 

While the number of prisons has risen in Turkey, the Justice Ministry has failed against several other critical indicators. While the projected average length of criminal cases for 2021 was 259 days, it has increased to 382 days on average - in 2020, it was 271 days. The number of extended litigation days increased by more than 100 percent. Civil litigation cases were projected to take 277 days on average - in actuality, they took 357 days on average. 

According to reporting by daily Sözcü, the Justice Ministry has also failed against an additional range of issues. While there was a plan to give literacy certificate to 7,000 inmates, certificates were only given to 53. The number of judges per 100,000 was meant to be 20, but this year the average was only 19. One indicator on which the Ministry succeeded, in addition to prisons, was with prosecutors - the Ministry aimed to have an average of nine prosecutors per 100,000 citizens, which was the 2021 average. 

Internal operations were also not up to par. The Ministry intended to install 800 Audio and Visual Systems (SEGBİS) in order to take statements remotely, but they only installed 350. 22,000 employees were supposed to be trained, but only 15,000 completed training. The Ministry was supposed to expand prison employment to 19,000 people, but that number remained at 15,000. Judges and prosecutors also each fell under expectation for average numbers of cases completed per employee.