Democratic Turkey may at times be touted as a model for the Middle East to follow, but, when it comes to Turkish prisons, there is little that ranks as exemplary, rights watchdogs say.
Since 2001, Turkey's prison population has increased by a whopping 124 percent, and stood at 124,677 prisoners as of October 2012, according to national prison administration data cited by the International Centre for Prison Studies (ICPS), a British research institute. Not all are convicted criminals; many are detainees awaiting trial.
Official data puts the occupancy rate at 88.4 percent at 373 prisons across Turkey, according to the ICPS.
International observers and representatives of non-governmental organizations say they do not have regular access to Turkish prisons. Thus, it is hard for them to evaluate prison conditions, according to Emma Sinclair-Web, an Istanbul-based researcher for New York-based Human Rights Watch.
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Justin Vela is a freelance reporter based in Istanbul.