Start date: 
Thursday, March 1, 2001
End date: 
Monday, March 31, 2003

At the invitation of the Turkish Ministry of Justice and with support from the UK Foreign Office and the British Council, the Centre initiated a series of projects in 2001 aimed at helping to develop the process of reform in the prison system in Turkey. Initially there were three of these projects; in the course of 2002 a fourth was added. The work of each project was overseen by a team consisting of members from the Turkish Ministry of Justice and ICPS. The Director General of Prisons and Detention Houses, Ali Suat Ertosun, gave his full support to the projects.

Independent monitoring of prisons

An important way of ensuring that prisons are managed in a decent and humane manner is to open them to public scrutiny. The Turkish authorities have recognised this and identified independent monitoring as an area for priority action. During the first part of this project ICPS experts began working with the Ministry of Justice to assist with the implementation of new legislation which provided for an independent system of monitoring. Following discussions in Turkey, a study visit was organised to the United Kingdom during which the Turkish partners were able to speak to independent individuals and bodies involved in the monitoring of prisons. They also made a detailed study of the operation of English Boards of Visitors on which the Turkish legislation had been based.

In the course of 2002 the Ministry established 130 monitoring councils, each responsible for the prisons in one judicial commission area. As a result, the focus for the project became the development of mechanisms to support and train council members and to review the need for further changes in the legislation. Having taken the opportunity to see some of the councils in action ICPS experts worked with the Ministry of Justice to develop a training seminar for members of monitoring councils. This took place in June 2002 and was attended by 60 chairpersons of monitoring councils. Contributors included the Minister of Justice, the General Director of Prisons, Sir Peter Lloyd, who is a former UK Minister for Prisons and chairman of a committee which reviewed the work of Boards of Visitors in England and Wales, and Geoffrey Hughes, Governor of a maximum security prison in London and a former inspector of prisons.

The conference led to a number of important recommendations to improve the legislation relating to monitoring councils, to introduce a handbook for monitoring council members and to develop future training. All of these recommendations were developed in subsequent discussions between ICPS consultants and the Ministry of Justice team. The latter part of the project focused on the development of a handbook for monitoring council members. This work was led by the small secretariat team which had been established to support the councils and to act as the conduit for their reports and the responses to them. The head of the team made a study visit to London in October and this provided a further opportunity for ICPS experts to advise on the final draft of the handbook. Final evaluation of the project at the end of November 2002 indicated that the monitoring councils were well established and were reporting regularly on a wide range of issues. Ministry officials are aware of the further work which will need to be undertaken in support of councils in order to ensure that they continue the work they have begun.

Training for senior prison administrators

After a preliminary visit by Turkish partners to the United Kingdom, it was agreed to develop a short training programme which would develop the competence of prison directors in the use of a range of management planning techniques which are relevant to a strategy for the introduction of practices and procedures that demonstrate respect for human rights within an operational context in prisons. The programme was to be designed primarily for use with prison directors but with the facility to use it also for middle managers and other professional staff in prisons.

Linked to this was an objective of helping the staff of the Turkish prison staff training centre to develop the knowledge, skills and structure they needed in order successfully to develop and present the planned training programme. In addition staff of the training centre carried out a survey among senior prison directors to discover their views on priority areas for change. In the course of a mid-term workshop in Turkey the programme was further developed and the opportunity was taken to pilot it with some middle ranking prison managers. This allowed an identification of where progress was being made and of areas which needed further attention.

In particular the senior Turkish training staff and the ICPS experts focused on a need to maintain a balance between:

  • Building and sustaining the commitment of the prison directors to the change programme
  • Providing them with an authoritative knowledge base on which to build their managerial confidence
  • Ensuring their commitment to ongoing development of essential core management skills.

A strategy for prisoner programmes

There is little tradition in Turkish prisons of any programme of organised activities for prisoners. Generally, they have been left to their own devices each day. In terms of good management, inactivity like this is not recommended. The international standards of the United Nations and the Council of Europe strongly advocate that prisoners should have a full programme of daily activities, which includes work, education, training and physical exercise. This has become a live issue in Turkey with the introduction of new prison accommodation in small units instead of the large dormitories which have been the norm until now. For this reason, the Ministry of Justice identified the introduction of a full programme of prisoner activities as another of their priorities. They also wished to create an awareness among prison managers of the need for a balance between security, good order and an observance of human rights in prisons.

In early 2002 the Turkish partners undertook a study visit to the Prison Service of England and Wales, to observe how these matters were dealt with, especially in respect of the management of high security prisoners. The main UK partners were in the Eastern Area of the prison service. The team received intensive briefings from a policy and strategic management perspective from officials in the Directorate of Resettlement in national headquarters. This was followed by practical demonstrations of how policy was put into practice during observation visits to six prisons in East Anglia, including Whitemoor maximum security prison. The Turkish visitors showed particular interest in the involvement of both prison staff and non-governmental organisations in programme delivery and in the organisation of systems of assessment, motivation and monitoring.

In July 2002 a strategic planning workshop was held in Turkey, at which a model policy document, based on international and regional benchmarks such as the European Prison Rules, was developed. This document laid out a programme to be implemented over several years, with a set of clearly identified improvement measurements. Turkish colleagues completed work on this policy by the end of 2002. It was endorsed by the General Directorate of Prisons, approved by the Minister of Justice, and presented at a conference in Ankara in January 2003. The conference was addressed by, amongst others, Sir David Ramsbotham, former Chief Inspector of Prisons for England and Wales and a member of the ICPS Advisory Board.

Training in human rights for public prosecutors in charge of prisons

As in each of the other projects, the team carried out a one week study visit to the United Kingdom, during which they visited several prisons and senior staff at HM Prison Service headquarters, as well as a number of other relevant agencies. During this visit work began on planning the training programme and introducing the team to training techniques. During a further visit to Ankara in November 2002 the content of the training programme was refined and the team of prosecutors had the opportunity to begin to develop their skills as trainers.

Two pilot training programmes were took place in early 2003, with a total of 50 prosecutors drawn from across Turkey and from a wide variety of different prison types. As a follow-up to the training the prosecutors were asked to carry out an analysis of compliance with human rights legislation in one topic in their own prisons.

The final stage of the project was an evaluation meeting in March 2003 in which the trainers and a representative group of prosecutors met with officials from the Ministry of Justice to review the training programme and the results of their follow-up work. The group also considered plans for further development and dissemination of the training programme.