The Complaints About the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Outbreak Received from Prisons / 27 July–12 August

In this report, we are presenting the complaints received over the advice line of Civil Society in the Penal System Association between 27.07-12.08.2020, without giving any information about prisons and prisoners. From the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic to the date of this report, we received complaints from 104 different penal institutions. 59 of these institutions are closed prisons, 45 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,
  • Only in few prisons, the disinfection materials are provided in the hallways,
  • Disinfectant dispensers were hung on the walls and corridors of the common areas of some prisons,
  • In some closed prisons, due to the small windows, the wards cannot be adequately ventilated, and in some prisons, the windows are locked to prevent the prisoners from opening the windows,
  • In some prisons, ventilation has been arbitrarily opened late and closed early,
  • Closing the ventilation minimizes the access to fresh air and social distancing,
  • In some open prisons, when people line up in the dining hall and at the canteen ensuring social distancing is not possible for prisoners,
  • In some prisons, bed linens were changed every six months.


Hygiene of Prisoners

It has been reported that,

  • While some prison administrations hand out disinfectant and bleach to wards, in some prisons these materials are not provided free of charge,
  • Free distributed products are limited and insufficient to meet the needs,
  • In some prisons, prisoners can only access the disinfectant during their phone calls,
  • While in some prisons, masks are provided to the prisoners making phone calls, in some prisons, masks are not provided to prisoners during phone calls even though they make requests,
  • Masks are not sold in the canteens of some prisons and even when prisoners want to buy masks by paying the fee are not provided with this opportunity,
  • In some prisons, cleaning products are not provided free, and products are not provided to prisoners who are unable to pay their price,
  • 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 is provided,
  • Water shortages in prisons in areas with high temperatures cause greater problems,
  • There are problems with ensuring personal hygiene.



It has been reported that,

  • The meals served in some closed prisons are limited, of poor quality, and unhygienic,
  • In some prisons, the weight of the bread served was reduced,
  • The food supply is not enough for all prisoners; in some prisons, they ran out of food in a short time,
  • 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,
  • Products in canteens are expensive and the product variety is low,
  • Products sold in canteens of open prisons are more expensive than products sold in canteens of closed prisons,
  • 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, in prisons that served diet food, a single type of diet food is given without considering the different diseases,
  • Vitamins and immune-boosting supplements are not provided.


Access to the Right to Health

 It has been reported that,

  • No precautions have been taken for the risk groups, chronically ill, and elderly; cleaning supplies are not provided, instead, prisoners have to take measurements on their own,
  • In some prisons, doctors do not attend the infirmary, or do not attend regularly,
  • Even when the prisoners are taken to the infirmary they cannot access to all medication and the laboratory tests are not performed,
  • In some prisons, ill prisoners are not given their medication on time,
  • Many prisons do not have hospital referrals and regular treatment opportunities,
  • In many prisons, hospital referrals and regular treatments have halted,
  • In some prisons, a limited number of hospital referrals have been made,
  • Dental units do not serve in many prisons and since prisoners cannot be referred to hospitals, dental complaints have increased,
  • 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 hospital referrals for chronically ill prisoners in a long time has increased their health problems and this has brought their condition to critical stages,
  • Carrying more than one prisoner in shuttles increases the risk of contamination,
  • Since the hospitals are far from the prisons, the duration of waiting in the shuttles and the risk of illness have been increasing.


Quarantine Wards

It has been reported that,

  • 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,
  • Sick prisoners with medical reports stating that they must be kept under observation and that they cannot stay alone continue to be kept alone in quarantine wards,
  • In some prisons, quarantine wards are not adequately ventilated,
  • In some prisons, prisoners kept in quarantine alone are not allowed to access to fresh air or kept in areas without ventilation, so quarantine conditions are applied as aggravated solitary confinement,
  • Areas used as quarantine in some prisons are in the form of wards and prisoners stay in large groups,
  • The basic needs– such as newspapers, radio, TV, books, and tea urns—of prisoners staying in the quarantine sections of some prisons are not met,
  • During the pandemic, prisoners’ sources of information were limited, and the radios they purchased from the commissary were confiscated,
  • In some prisons, prisoners kept in quarantine due to the suspicion or precautions of Covid-19 are cannot use their telephone rights and access to open-air compared to other prisoners,
  • Some seriously ill prisoners’ health status has worsened due to the negative effects of quarantine conditions.


The Cases

  • 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 will have 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. Yıldırım caught Covid-19 due to not paying attention to the number of people he came into contact with when he was transferred to the hospital. Yıldırım’s family stated that as a result of the treatment he overcame the disease and his last test came negative.

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 the 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.

  • Mehmet Emin Özkan – Diyarbakır Type-D Closed Penal Execution Institution

Mehmet Emin Özkan is 82 and staying in Diyarbakır Type-D Closed Execution Institution. In addition to 87% loss of function in his body, he has Alzheimer’s, malignant goiter, high blood pressure, intestinal and heart diseases, and bubbles in his brain. He has memory loss from Alzheimer’s and hearing loss in both ears. He has had 5 heart attacks and 4 angiomas so far. Özkan cannot sustain his life alone, his son who stays in the same ward with him takes care of him. Özkan is in the risk group and could not be treated during the pandemic, his application to the Forensic Medicine Institute was rejected.


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,
  • The means that prisoners use to communicate with their families during the outbreak is being restricted,
  • During the outbreak, communication penalties have not been suspended, and they continue to be applied, due to the penalties of communication, prisoners are not able to call their families and this situation has been negatively affecting prisoners and their families,
  • In some closed prisons, closed visitations have been carried out and no negative situation has been encountered,
  • In some prisons, it is said that the visitation cabins will be disinfected before and after visitations; even though closed visitations are expected to last one hour are reduced to 35-40 minutes for different reasons, this situation psychologically puts pressure on the relatives of prisoners coming from distant cities,
  • The relatives of prisoners were not given sufficient information on how to conduct the visitations and new measures are taken,
  • Since prisons are far from the cities where prisoners’ families reside, families cannot easily visit the prisons and this situation prevents prisoners’ visitation rights,
  • The families who could not come to the meeting sent parcels to the prisoners, but these parcels were not delivered to the prisoners even though they did not carry the risk of contamination,
  • In some open prisons, making closed visits are not possible,
  • In some prisons, counting prisoners digitally has begun to be implemented and counting is performed through fingerprints,
  • 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,
  • Prisoners staying in the same ward and contact, even though they are not at risk, are not allowed to use open sports halls,
  • Social activities cannot be held in prisons,
  • Different requests of prisoners have been rejected on the grounds of pandemic conditions,
  • Although there are no COVID-19 cases in some prisons, requests for change of ward were denied,
  • In some prisons, the people kept in quarantine cannot use their telephone rights and access to the open air due to the suspicion of Covid-19,
  • Prisoners who have been granted the right to make telephone calls cannot express their complaints over the phone,
  • In some prisons, although prisoners have legal rights, they do not receive their petition numbers and get the results of their application, therefore they think that their petitions are not processed,
  • Prisoners have submitted the violations and complaints of their rights in prisons to administrative institutions, but they have not received any response regarding these applications,
  • Prisoners who want to convey their complaints to the prison administration are not interviewed on the grounds of the epidemic,
  • When the prisoners objected to the problems they experienced, they were threatened with disciplinary penalties by the prison officers,
  • Prisoners whose prison-related problems are not resolved started hunger strike individually or as a group,
  • Prisoners on hunger strikes are exiled to institutions far from their current prisons against their will, and long-distance travel in the rings increases the risk of catching the coronavirus,
  • Prisoners staying in open prisons have been threatened with having sent to a closed prison when they express any complaints,
  • In some prisons, prisoners cannot obtain their legal status summary even though they have been requesting them,
  • In some prisons, prisoners were prevented from sending and receiving letters, and in some prisons, letters were distributed once a month,
  • Prisoners cannot convey their complaints about the epidemic through letters, their letters are censored,
  • In some prisons, newspapers are not given to prisoners or given to a limited extent,
  • In some prisons, there are problems to access books during the pandemic,
  • Some prisons experienced long delays in the exchange of books stored in warehouses,
  • In some prisons, the clothes that were sent to prisoners from outside or the outfits in the warehouse are not given to prisoners,
  • In some open prisons, the number of telephones is not enough, therefore the queues for phones have been getting longer,
  • Prisons are not affected by the normalization process and no steps have been taken towards normalization,
  • In some prisons, lawyer visitations continue to be made as closed visitations, and lawyers object to this practice; despite the objection of the lawyers, the visitations are held closed,
  • Prisoners working in open prisons are provided with one mask on their working days,
  • The health status of prisoners who are employed outside of prisons is not controlled and adequate measures are not taken when they return from their duties and when they enter the prison,
  • In some prisons, prisoners have not been allowed to be taken to the barbers for five months, the demands of male prisoners for scissors and shavers are not met,
  • Different epidemic diseases such as scabies and diarrhea started in some prisons, necessary measures have not been taken for the scabies epidemic,
  • Due to shift work system caused by the quarantine, ill-treatment, psychological pressure, and verbal and physical violence against prisoners have increased in prisons,
  • In some prisons, requests for transfers are processed, while in others the system is said to be closed,
  • The leave permits of prisoners staying in open prisons have been extended for 3-7 days because of the coronavirus outbreak, prisoners could not benefit from health services in case of illness because of they do not have work permits and social security during this period, they could not get health service from public hospitals and had to go to private hospitals, this situation financially leave prisoners in a difficult situation,
  • The prisoners who are on leave and find it difficult to meet their needs cannot receive support from the Social Assistance and Solidarity Foundation in this process.


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,
  • Foreign prisoners cannot receive money and cargo packages due to the closed borders, telephone calls to abroad have been disrupted and stopped in some places, and they cannot benefit from the right to visitation, which is newly started,
  • Trans prisoners who are in the process of gender affirmation cannot continue their transition process due to the cessation of hospital referrals,
  • No additional measures have been taken for prisoners over the age of 65 that are in the risk group,
  • There is no special work or planning to meet the different needs of prisoners with disabilities arising from the pandemic.