Report: Turkey is Europe’s largest jailer following Russia

As President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s regime has become increasingly authoritarian, Turkey’s prison population has grown and is currently Europe’s second largest, says a new report from the Council of Europe.

The Council of Europe’s Annual Penal Statistics 2021, published on Tuesday and compiled by the University of Lausanne in Switzerland, shows that Turkey remains one of Europe’s leading jailers because of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s increasingly authoritarian rule and his crackdown on critics.

The survey, known as the SPACE Report, provides comprehensive data from 49 European prison administrations on issues including total prison populations, incarceration rates, sentences, offences and staffing as well as rates of mortality, suicide and escape.

According to the report, Turkey leads Europe in many of these categories.

“Between 2011 and 2021, the incarceration rate in Turkey grew by 89.3%; Turkey was the only country in Europe with a population of more than 300,000 inhabitants where the incarceration rate grew significantly over this period,” the report says.

Countries with the highest incarceration rates in 2021 were Russia (328 inmates per 100,000 inhabitants), Turkey (325), Georgia (232), Azerbaijan (216), Slovakia (192), Lithuania (190), the Czech Republic (180), Hungary (180) and Poland (179); this compares to a Europe-wide median of 102 prisoners per 100,000 inhabitants.

In terms of the total number of inmates, Turkey follows Russia.

At the end of January 2021, the countries with the largest total number of inmates were Russia (478,714), Turkey (272,115), the United Kingdom (87,035), Poland (67,894), France (62,673), Germany (59,045), Spain (55,110), Italy (53,329) and Ukraine (49,520), according to the report.

Turkey also leads Europe with the highest number of inmates in comparison to the number of prison staff it employs.

The report says that the countries with the highest inmate-to-staff ratios are Turkey (3.9 prisoners to one staff member), Georgia (2.9 to one), Greece (2.8 to one), Serbia (2.5 to one), Moldova (2.5 to one) and Poland (2.4 to one).

Following a failed coup attempt in 2016, democracy and human rights have consistently deteriorated in Turkey.

The government under President Erdogan accused exiled cleric Fetullah Gulen of trying to state the coup, and a total of 292,000 people have so far been detained because of their alleged links with the Gulen movement. More than 30,000 of them are now in Turkish prisons.