Turkey Releases Prisoners to Make Room for 40,000 Detained Since Coup

Pre-Coup Prisoners Who've Served Half Their Sentences Can Go

by Jason Ditz, August 17, 2016

With the ongoing post-coup purge having rounded up upwards of 40,000 detainees across Turkey so far, and no sign it’s close to done, the Turkish government has announced a broad “penal reform” program that will begin wholesale releases of prisoners who were there before the coup.

The Justice Ministry says the coup reform, which will see pre-coup prisoners released when they’ve completed at least half of their sentence, will free 38,000 immediately, and as many as 93,000 released over the long run. The move is primarily about prison overcrowding since the coup.

Of the 40,000 detained in the purge, only about half have actually been formally “arrested” and the others are just being held. Roughly 80,000 other people have been fired, and 4,262 companies have been shut down in the broad, nationwide purge.

The Justice Ministry reports 213,499 people being held as of August 16, which is more than 10% above maximum capacity. Many of the detained in the purge have been held in makeshift facilities, in some cases just a big common room full of men bound and sitting on the floor.

What this ultimately means is that Turkey is releasing roughly 20% of its entire prison population from before the coup, and could end up releasing nearly half before the reform is finished, with an eye toward making room for a new batch, including large numbers of detainees who’ve never been formally charged with a crime.

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