Prison conditions were unsanitary, overcrowded, harsh, and life-threatening. Some facilities, such as the minimum security camp LBK-12 in Lebap Province, are located in areas where inmates experienced extremely harsh climate conditions, with excessive heat in the summers and frigid temperatures in the winter. There were unconfirmed reports of physical abuse of prisoners by prison officials and other prisoners.
Physical Conditions: Official data on the average sentence or numbers of prisoners, including incarcerated juveniles, were not available. According to a 2011 report submitted to the UN Committee Against Torture by Turkmenistan’s Independent Lawyers Association (TILA) and the Turkmen Initiative for Human Rights, the total imprisonment capacity in the penal colonies and prisons (excluding the military penal battalion) was 8,100 inmates. According to this report, however, the inmate population totaled as many as 26,720 persons in 2009, the most recent numbers available. This figure did not include detainees kept in pretrial detention facilities, police-run temporary holding facilities, occupational therapy rehabilitation centers, and the penal battalion. The detainees in pretrial detention facilities were predominantly individuals who had been sentenced but not transferred to penal colonies. The six pretrial detention facilities are reportedly designed for 1,120 persons, but they likely housed three to four times that number.
Authorities typically incarcerated men and women in separate facilities. The number of facilities for female prisoners and detainees was not available, but according to the TILA report, there were 2,010 female prisoners held at the DZK-8 facility in Dashoguz. A pretrial detention facility under the jurisdiction of the Interior Ministry housed adults and juveniles and accommodated approximately 800 persons. This number included individuals in pretrial detention, on remand, and those already convicted but not yet transferred to penal colonies. A juvenile correctional facility in Bayramali had the capacity to hold 142 boys, although international organizations reported that the facility held an average of 40-50 boys at any time. Authorities reportedly kept girls in a ward of the DZK-8 facility separate from adult female inmates.
Diseases, particularly tuberculosis (TB), were widespread. Due to overcrowding, officials reportedly held inmates diagnosed with TB and skin diseases with healthy detainees, contributing to the spread of disease. There continued to be concerns that the government did not adequately test and treat prisoners with TB before they were released into the general population, although the government claimed that it did so. The government reported that it transferred prisoners diagnosed with TB to a special Ministry of Interior hospital in Mary Province for treatment and arranged for continuing treatment for released prisoners at their residences.
The nutritional value of prison food was poor, and many prisoners suffered from malnutrition. Prisoners depended on relatives to supplement inadequate prison food supplies. Some family members and inmates stated that prison officials sometimes confiscated these food parcels. The availability of potable water could not be confirmed.
Administration: According to relatives, some prisoners were unable to receive supplies, and family members often were denied access to the prisoners. The government did allow foreign diplomats to access prisoners held on criminal charges who were nationals of their countries. There was no information available on the quality of prison recordkeeping. The government did not report whether prisoners were permitted religious observance and reported no systematic monitoring of prison and detention center conditions. Alternatives to sentencing for nonviolent offenders included suspended sentences, fines, and garnishment of wages. It was not known if a prison ombudsman existed.
Government officials frequently disregarded inquiries from family members and foreign diplomats about political prisoners’ locations or condition. On August 28, the government provided information about the number of family visits, food packages, and medical services received since 2007 by imprisoned dissidents Annagurban Amanklychev, Sapardurdy Hajiev, and Gulgeldi Annaniyazov.
Monitoring: Government officials continued refusing international observers, including the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), access to detainees or prisoners. The government and the ICRC continued negotiations on acceptable conditions for regular prison visits. As a result, the ICRC did not conduct regular prison visits during the year. In April, however, the government allowed ICRC officials to visit a penal institution operated by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the construction site of a new penal institution.
Improvements: During the year the government continued construction of two new prisons to alleviate overcrowding. The national action strategy to reform the juvenile justice system, adopted on June 1, included measures to train law enforcement and justice system officials in the treatment of juvenile offenders, the establishment of rehabilitation and alternative sentencing programs, and training to build the capacity of prison staff to deliver rehabilitation and reintegration services.