The Complaints About the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Outbreak Received from Prisons / 13-29 May

In this report, we are presenting the complaints received from the hotline of Civil Society in the Penal System Association between 13-29.05.2020, without giving any information about prisons and prisoners. During this period, we received complaints from 77 different penal institutions. 38 of these institutions are closed prisons, 39 of them are open prisons. These reports include up to date complaints from the prisons for the specified time range. By comparing the reports, you could follow up on which complaints have decreased in time and which new applications have been added. In this report, the current health problems, complaints, and demands of the prisoners in the risk group will be included. You can read the situation of ill prisoners who agreed to share their stories under the title of the cases below.


The Capacity Problem in Prisons

Overcrowding in prisons is a problem that has been going on for a long time, and prisoners face many issues due to this reason. In addition to the problems listed below, we could say that many applications for violations that we received are mostly caused by overcrowding.

The prisoners reported that their wards were cramped, that their beds were too close to each other, and that they had to sleep at this intimacy, that they could not establish enough physical distance, that too many prisoners had to come together in the common areas, such as dining halls. In some prisons, closure of prison yards at certain times due to the cold weather has limited the movement of the prisoners that causes them to spend time in the same area close to each other.


The General Condition of Prisons and Hygiene Measures

It has been reported that,

  • While the prisons had been disinfected periodically and regularly at the beginning of the epidemic, this frequency has decreased recently,
  • At some prisons, fumigation has been done only at the outdoors, common areas have not been fumigated,
  • Only in few prisons, the disinfection materials are provided in the hallways,
  • Prison officers have been leaving the areas that they should have stayed during the quarantine, moving within the prison and interacting with prison staff and prisoners; and they have not been acting by the quarantine rules,
  • In some prisons, prison officers do not comply with the social distance rule,
  • Due to the low number of windows, ventilation in the buildings is insufficient,
  • Disinfection products are sold at the prison commissaries for 10 to 45 liras,
  • In some open prisons, dining halls are not hygienic, adequately cleaned; and too many prisoners have to dine at the same time,
  • In some open prisons, when people line up in the dining hall ensuring social distancing is not possible for prisoners.


Hygiene of Prisoners

It has been reported that,

  • While some prison administrations hand out soap and bleach to the wards, in some prisons soap is not providedfree of charge,
  • Most prison administrations provide hand sanitizer only to prison officers and prisoners cannot access to hand sanitizers even they make requests,
  • In some prisons, the prisoners can access to disinfectants only during their phone calls,
  • In some prisons, the prisoners are not provided with masks, while in others, only one mask is distributed per day, or only those who make phone calls are given masks,
  • Some prisons charge money for masks,
  • Cleaning products are not provided without charge, even for prisoners who cannot afford it,
  • In some prisons, products containing cologne and alcohol are not provided,
  • In many prisons, there are not any sanitizing products in toilets,
  • Bathrooms are filthy,
  • The number of sinks is insufficient,
  • Water is cut off frequently, hot water is limited, and only at certain times, hot water is provided,
  • There are problems with ensuring personal hygiene among prisoners and male prisoners cannot shave.



It has been reported that,

  • After people in open prisons taking leave, there have been problems with the distribution of meals prepared in prisons, and the meals in closed prisons are limited, of poor quality, and unhygienic,
  • In some prisons, canned food and instant soup are served,
  • Due to canned foods, there are prisoners experiencing health problems,
  • The food supply is not enough for all prisoners; in some prisons, they ran out of food in a short time,
  • In some prisons, fresh vegetables are not allowed in due to concerns of they may carry the virus; supplementary food is not provided, also, it is not possible to access supplementary food even by paying,
  • Due to all of these problems, the prisoners who cannot eat the food served in prisons are forced to meet their nutritional needs from the food in prison canteens,
  • The products in the canteen are expensive and the product variety is low,
  • In some open prisons, canteens are kept open at certain times, therefore the needs could not be met in this limited time, the canteen lines are long and social distancing rules are violated,
  • Dietary food is not provided,
  • Vitamins are not provided,
  • Products such as lemon, garlic, onion, and vinegar are in limited supply,
  • The prisoners who do not fast during Ramadan are not given food other than the time of iftar and sahur, and the prisoners who are fasting are not supplied with enough food.


Access to the Right to Health

It has been reported that,

  • No precautions have been taken for the risk groups, chronically ill, and elderly; masks and cleaning supplies are not provided, instead, prisoners have to take measurements on their own.
  • At some prisons, doctors do not attend the infirmary, or do not attend regularly,
  • Prisoners have not been taken to the infirmary, instead, they have been getting medications according to the answers they give through the door without letting them in and even the prisoners are taken to infirmary they could not access to medication,
  • Chronically ill prisoners’ medical reports have not been renewed despite the state’s decision for allowing the renewal of medical reports without visiting the hospitals,
  • Some prisoners cannot get prescription for controlled substances, thus there is a risk that they will be harmful to themselves and their environment,
  • In many prisons, hospital referrals and treatments have halted,
  • Even if the infirmary doctors stated that it is necessary to send the prisoners to the hospital due to their health condition, the prison administrations have not made the hospital referrals
  • Stopping of hospital referrals for chronically ill prisoners in a long time has increased their health problems and this has brought their condition to critical stages,
  • Since all prisoners have to be quarantined for 14 days following a hospital visit, prisoners’ concerns about contracting the virus are exacerbating regarding transferring to a hospital and the prisoners who cannot live on by themselves do not want to transfer to hospitals because they do not know how to take care of themselves,
  • Seriously ill prisoners who have to visit the hospitals have been quarantined after their visits and the prisoners who cannot take care of themselves alone have been having various difficulties.


The Cases

  • Sabri Kaya – Osmaniye Type-T Closed Penal Execution Institution

He was 55 and three of his heart valves are malfunctioning. He was hospitalized and treated in ICU before the coronavirus outbreak. After his treatment, he went back to the prison that he was staying in. After one week, his condition had deteriorated again, and he was once again hospitalized and treated in ICU. His family appealed for halting Kaya’s execution to the Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, however, they did not receive an affirmative answer for months.  Due to his health condition, his family was concerned that Kaya had to stay at the prison. Although Kaya’s family and lawyers, non-governmental organizations working in the field of human rights made many applications, his sentence was not postponed, and he could not receive the health service that he needed. Unfortunately, Kaya died on the day he was released.

  • Mehmet Salih Filiz – Ödemiş Type-T Closed Penal Execution Institution

Mehmet Salih Filiz was diagnosed with colon cancer at 23. While his treatment continues, he had to be transferred from Antalya Type-L Closed Penal Execution Institution to Ödemiş Type-T Closed Penal Execution Institution. He has been staying at Ödemiş Type-T Closed Penal Execution for a month. During his stay, his health has deteriorated. His lungs are in dire condition and he is vomiting blood. He has been feeding on special food. His medicines are not given to him because they have to be imported from Europe. He was not provided with masks and cleaning supplies. In his ward, social distance is impossible. Even though the doctor who examined him asked for his transfer, his transfer was not made. To get transferred to a hospital Filiz was asked to sign a medical liability waiver in case he contracts the coronavirus and experiences a medical violation. His family and Filiz are anxious about the hospital transfer since he has to stay in a quarantine ward for 14 days after his visit and he is not capable of taking care of himself.

  • Deniz Yıldırım – Elazığ No. 1 Closed-High Security Penal Execution Institution

He has been in prison for four years. He has bowel-colon cancer. He had surgery on 31 January. Part of his small intestine is outside of his body. His chemotherapy started on 9 March and it continues. He has been held alone in the quarantine; however, he cannot meet his needs alone. His family states that isolating him is a problem, if he experiences any medical problem there is not anyone who can help him.

  • Abdulsamet Durak – Türkoğlu No. 1 Type-L Closed Penal Execution Institution

He had a heart attack. He had an angiogram at the hospital and two more stents were placed addition to two stents he already had. During his three days at the hospital he was treated in handcuffs, he was exposed to psychological violence. He did not have bypass surgery because he thought he would not get the proper care at the hospital. Currently, he is quarantined at the prison. His friend from his ward is staying with him and taking care of him.


Other Complaints

It has been reported that,

  • With the new measures taken, instead of prison visits, the prisoners can only use their right to phone call only one or two times, and for 20 minutes in total,
  • With these measures, the common areas used by prisoners in some closed prisons are completely closed down and the use of prisoners is not permitted,
  • Ill-treatment and psychological pressure have increased in some prisons,
  • In some prisons, the prisoners have been prevented from sending letters and writing petitions,
  • In some prisons, prisoners cannot obtain their legal status summary even though they have been requesting them,
  • In some prisons, the letters from outside are not given to prisoners at all or they are distributed monthly,
  • In some prisons, newspapers are not given to prisoners or given to a limited extent,
  • In some open prisons, the number of telephones is not enough, therefore the queues for phones have been getting longer,
  • Prisoners who have recently moved from a closed prison to an open prison are employed for long hours due to accumulated jobs,
  • In some prisons, quarantine wards are crowded and prisoners at risk of infection are kept together,
  • In some prisons, the people kept in quarantine cannot use their telephone rights and access to the open air,
  • In some prisons, prisoners are not allowed to go out to open-air due to prison’s location and the changes in weather condition such as fog; this limitation minimizes the access to fresh air and the possibilities of social distancing,
  • The referral applications of prisoners who request transfers due to ill-treatment, psychological pressure and distance to the family are not processed.


Problems Encountered by Prisoners with Special Needs

It has been reported that,

  • Aggravated life sentence prisoners cannot meet with their families, and unlike other prisoners, their number of telephone call rights were not increased in this process,
  • Minimizing the number of meetings with families has exacerbated the isolation conditions for the prisoners, who are kept alone, cannot benefit from the common areas as other prisoners, and cannot socialize,
  • During the epidemic, no measures have been taken for children aged 0-6 who stayed with their mothers in some prisons and for their mothers,
  • Trans prisoners who are in the process of gender reassignment cannot continue their transition process due to the cessation of hospital referrals.