Cablegate: Turkey's F-Type Prisons: Moving Away From "Midnight


DE RUEHAK #1733/01 3381517
O 041517Z DEC 09




E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (SBU) SUMMARY. A recent Embassy visit to one of Turkey's
high-security "F-type" prisons found a clean, modern facility
housing inmates who appeared to be well-fed, well-behaved, and
well-treated. The prisoners, incarcerated for crimes related to
terrorism, organized crime and drug trafficking, were afforded a
number of educational and vocational training opportunities. The
prison regime was surprisingly lax by U.S. standards, but appeared
to be effective and safe for prisoners and guards alike. END

2. (SBU) U.S. Embassy representatives visited Ankara's Sincan prison
complex, located approximately 20 kilometers west of central Ankara,
on December 2, 2009, to gain a better understanding of the current
state of Turkey's prisons, particularly the F-Type prison. The
embassy group included the Resident Legal Advisor (RLA), the RLA's
assistant, FBI Legal Attache, the Regional Counterterrorism
Coordinator and a political officer. A Ministry of Justice official
from the Directorate General of Prisons, Orhan Arslan, served as our

3. (SBU) Turkey's "F-Type" prisons are maximum security facilities
used exclusively to house persons convicted of terrorism, organized
crime, or leading drug trafficking gangs. The F-type prison concept
emerged in 2000, and the first such prisons opened in 2003. There
are currently thirteen F-type prisons in Turkey, the last opening in
November 2009 on Imrali Island, which houses PKK terrorist leader
Abudllah Ocalan and a handful of other prisoners. (Note: The prison
on Imrali was described as a "special" F-Type prison because it was
created in order to comply with the European Commission Committee
for the Prevention of Torture's recommendations to include other
prisoners with Ocalan, who had been in solitary confinement since
his imprisonment in 1999. End note.)

4. (SBU) The Sincan (pronounced "Sin-John") prison complex houses
approximately 5,000 prisoners. The complex has two F-type prisons,
two L-type prisons (a secure prison for less serious offenders), one
women's prison, one juvenile prison, and one "open prison," for the
least serious offenders (those with sentences of less than two years
or with less than two years remaining on a longer sentence). Each
of these prisons is a stand-alone building, and each (except for the
open prison) has secure walls surrounded by barb-wire. The complex
also has housing for the prison employees and their families, which
is separated from the other prison buildings. The exterior wall,
consisting of a chain-link fence topped by razor wire, is guarded by
the Jandarma (under Ministry of Interior authority), and the
interior buildings are guarded by civil servants under the authority
of the Ministry of Justice (MOJ). The prison management personnel
are MOJ civil servants. The complex comprises approximately 617
acres and is one of three of its type currently in Turkey (the other
two are in the Istanbul area). A total of 15 are planned. Three
are currently under construction in Elazig, Erzerum, and Diyarbakir.
The tender has been granted for one in Izmir as well.

Sincan's F-type Prisons

5. (SBU) The Sincan F-type prison building we visited (one of two on
the grounds) opened in 2003 and has a capacity of 368 prisoners. It
currently houses 357 prisoners. The building is constructed in a
large rectangular, with long interior corridors running in a
crisscross pattern. The prisoners we observed and met appeared
well-fed, well-behaved, and well-treated. The prisoners' movement
is restricted; they are confined to their cells, and allowed to
enter other areas only during specific times of day. Prisoners are
granted two hours of exercise each week - one hour inside and one
hour outside -- in groups no larger than ten. Prisoners wear
regular street clothing, including tennis shoes with shoelaces,
something not permitted in U.S. prisons due to the potential for use
as a weapon or for suicides. They may not, however, wear clothing of
the same color or style as prison guards and staff. Inmates at this
prison typically serve sentences of over ten years. The number
serving time for terror-related crimes has decreased, while those
incarcerated for organized crime has gone up. The facility also
houses some incorrigible inmates from other prisons.

6. (SBU) The prison cells themselves are perhaps the most remarkable
aspect of the F-type prisons. We observed two types of cells-a
single-inmate cell and a three-inmate cell. The three-inmate cell
had two levels -- a downstairs living area and an upstairs sleeping
area. The lower level, which included a bathroom (with a door for

privacy), had a sink, a kettle for brewing tea, pots, pans,
silverware, and a small food pantry above the sink. An interior
door opened onto a small enclosed courtyard which the three
cellmates used for limited recreation. The cell was clean and well
maintained. Meals are delivered to the cells. Remarkably, the cell
we visited had three metal spoons, plastic forks, and a small metal
knife. (Note: This cutlery would never be permitted in U.S. prisons
as each piece could easily be converted into a shank.) This room
also had a small sitting area with three plastic chairs, a plastic
table, and a small television, provided by the inmates. The
upstairs room held three beds, with three small private lockers.
The prisoners had prayer rugs, bed linen, and personal items -- one
prisoner had a pile of books from the prison library. The cell's
upper level was not visible from the prison hallway, and there
appeared to be no easy way to see inside this area. A rooftop
camera did not have visibility into the upstairs of the cell. The
officials explained that this was to respect the inmates' right to
privacy. In many ways, the living conditions were not dissimilar
from a U.S. college student dorm room.

7. (SBU) The F-type prisoners are afforded a wide range of
vocational and educational opportunities. We observed several
prisoners making a traditional Turkish stringed instrument (the
baglama), finely detailed wooden crafts, mosaic tile-work, and silk
screen prints. Prisoners also engage in painting, ceramics, and
other artwork. The artistic abilities of the prisoners were
impressive. Their artwork is sold to the public, with profits
pumped back into buying additional materials for the arts and crafts
programs. The prison library, reported to be 10,000 books, appeared
well-maintained. Inmates order books from lists provided to each

8. (SBU) Inmates may also pursue an education and earn a high school
or college diploma. Their diplomas do not indicate they were earned
in prison, so as to not damage future employment opportunities.
Prisoners may also continue college programs interrupted by their
incarceration by following coursework from the schools they left;
they are even accompanied back to their schools by Jandarma to sit
for final exams, which must be taken in person. The prison includes
a Muslim prayer room and an imam spends ten hours each week at the
prison. One guard commented there was also one "Catholic" prisoner
for whom a Bible from the library was made available.

9. (SBU) The prisoners may order items from the small prison store,
which holds a wide array of snacks, food items, some clothing items,
personal hygiene items, and small televisions. Prisoners select
items from a list in their cells and pay from a pre-paid account
with a debit card. Prisoners may also, on a weekly basis, receive
items delivered from friends and family. The items are examined for
contraband in the inmate's presence prior to delivery. Visitation
is limited to one hour per week with family members in closed rooms,
with an additional one hour per month with family in an open,
caf-like visiting area. Prisoners are limited to ten minutes per
day of telephone calls to specific, pre-approved numbers.

Open Prison

10. (SBU) During a brief visit to the open prison, we found it, too,
was remarkable for the breadth of opportunities available to the
prisoners. This facility is more like a dormitory, with apparent
complete freedom of movement within the building itself. The one
cell we observed housed eight prisoners. It was clean and spare,
with four bunk beds. Each prisoner had a private locker. The open
prison also had classrooms, library, smoking room, prayer room, and
hamam (Turkish bath and massage room), which was open from 1700-2200
for the prisoners use.

11. (SBU) A large, clean cafeteria, manned by inmates, appeared to
offer a wide range of food. The prisoners were able to avail
themselves of educational and work opportunities. Prisoners were in
the midst of constructing a large outdoor recreation yard, designed
by a prisoner who had a background as an architect, which will have
a large water fountain and extensive brickwork - all constructed by
prisoners. Other prisoners worked in a tree nursery which now has
250,000 trees, with a planned expansion to one million trees. The
trees will be sold to the public to earn income for the prison. The
prison complex has its own bakery, which is a large, stand-alone
building that employs 40 inmates and prepares 14,000 loaves of bread
daily. In addition to supplying bread to the Sincan complex, the

bakery also has contracts with outside entities, including the
Turkish Central Bank, we were told. The bakery was very clean and
had extensive professional-level ovens, mixers, and other heavy-duty
bakery equipment.


12. (SBU) Overall, the Turkish prison system appears to be moving
rapidly away from the stereotypes portrayed in the West. We, of
course, cannot be certain that the Sincan prison complex is typical
of the newly emerging Turkish prison system. If it is, it is indeed
humane and advanced, with conditions superior to many U.S. prisons.
We would encourage prison authorities from the United States and
other countries to visit these facilities, to benefit from Turkey's
experience and to counter the stereotypes of the past.

© Scoop Media

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