According to the results of a survey conducted by the Media and Law Studies Association (MLSA) in five prisons between February and March 2021, more than half of the interviewed prisoners lacked cleaning and hygiene supplies during the COVID-19 period; most of them faced major restrictions imposed on cultural and sports activities as well as visiting rights.
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Within the scope of the study, interviews were conducted with 25 political prisoners between February 1 and March 19, 2021, during which the participants answered 62 questions about prison conditions and the measures taken against the pandemic in prison. The interviews were conducted with prisoners in the Edirne F-Type Closed Prison, Silivri L-Type Closed Prison Nr. 5, Ankara Sincan Closed Prison, Diyarbakır Closed Prison and Van High Security T-Type Closed Prison. Among the interviewees were 14 imprisoned men and 11 women.
The pandemic process and access to health
More than half of the interviewed detainees indicated that they did not have sufficient access to hygiene products, while at least two of those who showed COVID-19 symptoms were left untreated.
While 44 % of the prisoners said that they have not been informed about the COVID-19 pandemic by the prison administration, 56% indicated that they were deprived of the necessary and sufficient materials for cleaning and ensuring personal hygiene.
Four interviewees showed symptoms of a COVID-19 infection: Among them, two were medically examined, while the other two were quarantined. From the total of 25 interviewed prisoners, 12 requested to be tested for COVID-19; however, only 7 of these requests were met.
76 % of the detainees indicated that they are not being provided with sufficient nutrition. What’s more, 96 % did not receive any supplements or vitamins during the pandemic.
The findings show that the prisoners were generally kept in crowded wards during the pandemic. However, it was observed that the wards were regularly disinfected.
Among the prisoners who were interviewed, one person indicated to be in a cell with only one other person, while remaining 24 prisoners stayed in a ward together with three or more other persons.
15 of the interviewees requested to visit the infirmary, four of whom were denied the request.
Restrictions on access to activities and the right to communication
Access to sports activities, which play an important role in strengthening the immune system of prisoners during the pandemic, has been heavily restricted. All 25 interviewees indicated that at least one sports or cultural activity has been completely banned.
It was revealed that in cases of arrests or transfers to the hospital during the pandemic period, the quarantine period was at times increased arbitrarily up to 48 days.
The right to communicate, which is of great importance to receive news from the outside and to minimize the psychological impacts of the pandemic, has been severely limited during the pandemic period. 24 of the 25 interviewed prisoners, that is to say 96 %, stated that their right to contact visits was suspended; 13 interviewees, 52 %, stated that their right to non-contact visits was restricted, too.
Pandemic management in prison and recommendations
At the end of the report, it is recommended to publicly disclose what measures have been taken in prisons since the beginning of the pandemic and to publish the number of cases of infection with COVID-19 in prisons as well as of recoveries, deaths, treatments and vaccinations. Additionally, it is suggested to harmonize the measures taken in prisons with human rights standards.