Turkish soldiers stand guard at entrance to Aliaga court and prison complex, north of Izmir, on April 16, 2018. (Ozan Kose/AFP via Getty Images)

Turkey Mulls Prisoner Release to Reduce COVID-19 Risk

The Turkish parliament discussed on Tuesday a bill proposed by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s AK Party that would temporarily free about 45,000 prisoners in an effort to reduce overcrowding that could prove fatal in the event of a coronavirus outbreak. Plans drawn up last year to reduce crowding include the permanent release of a similar number of prisoners. Together, this would reduce the prison population – the second largest in Europe – by about a third. The bill has been criticized for excluding from consideration around 50,000 people jailed on terrorism charges, including tens of thousands of former civil servants, judiciary officials, military personnel, journalists and politicians who were incarcerated in a purge after the 2016 failed military coup against Erdoğan. Turkey’s penal system includes not only some of the most overcrowded prisons in the world but among the oldest prison populations, with 3,521 inmates aged 65 and over according to data from January 2019. Older people are particularly at risk from the coronavirus pandemic.

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