Prison and detention center conditions did not meet international standards in a number of areas, and prison overcrowding was a particular problem.
Physical Conditions: Of the 307 prisoners and detainees held as of September 30, 41 percent were foreigners, two-thirds of whom were Turkish citizens. Prison sentences are classified as either “light” or “heavy” punishment. Of those sentenced, 41 percent were sentenced to a heavy penalty and 23 percent to a light penalty. Fifteen female prisoners and two juveniles were incarcerated. Approximately 35.5 percent of the prison population consisted of persons awaiting trial.
The area’s central prison, located in the northern part of Nicosia and built in 1982, has a capacity of 291. In September the local press reported that the prison was unable to care for the increasing number of prisoners and that prison security was lacking. Authorities claimed that they had addressed the problem of overcrowding, in part through a bunk bed system that increased the number of beds to 452. The prison did not separate adults and juveniles; there were no detention or correction centers for children. One nongovernmental (NGO) representative stated that, during prison visits to help detainees, he repeatedly expressed concerns regarding poor prison conditions, particularly the detention of women and children who had no legal cause to be detained.
NGO representatives stated that facilities sorely lacked health and other services, and inmates had limited access to washing water and hot water. Authorities stated that health services were provided to inmates twice a week and were available for emergencies; prisoners and detainees received health checks upon entry into the prison.
The Turkish Cypriot Human Rights Foundation’s May 2012 report, Detainee Rights in the Northern Part of Cyprus, emphasized the inadequate level of healthcare available for detainees in the central prison, noting there was a lack of medical supplies; lack of medical and support staff; no full-time doctor, psychiatrist, or psychologist; and an insufficient number of social workers. The report also highlighted the lack of effective treatment for drug users or addicts. It also noted security problems, including insufficient measures to reduce violence between inmates and detainees, overcrowded cells, and bars on doors and windows that prisoners easily removed during violent encounters. The report cited incidences of gang violence, violence, or torture inflicted by guards on inmates, and easy access to weapons and drugs.
Through early December there were no reports of deaths in the prison or detention centers. Prisoners had access to potable water.
Administration: Recordkeeping on inmates was inadequate. Community service is not an alternative to prison confinement for nonviolent offenders. According to the “law,” alternatives to prison sentences, which were used most often for nonviolent offenses, include warnings, conditional and unconditional release, and bail. In some cases of domestic violence or drug use, the “court” may also suggest psychological and social counseling. According to authorities prisoners and detainees could submit complaints to judicial authorities without censorship and request investigation of credible allegations of inhumane conditions. Authorities reported they did not receive any complaints.
Authorities stated that all prisoners could observe their religious practices and that an imam visited the prison once a week to conduct prayers. Authorities allowed prisoners with heavy penalties to receive visitors every 10 days while prisoners with light punishment could receive visitors every 15 days. Detainees could receive visitors every 30 days. Visits were limited to 30 minutes except during holidays. Authorities permitted convicted inmates a maximum of 40 minutes of telephone calls three days a week; detainees had access to telephones two days a week for up to 40 minutes each day.
The scope of the “ombudsman’s” duties does not include advocating for reduced or alternative sentences or addressing the status of juvenile prisoners or improving detention or bail conditions.
Independent Monitoring: Authorities stated that prison monitoring is permitted, but no local or international NGO had applied to do so. Throughout the year press and media representatives visited the prison. According to one journalist, prison visits were permitted only when organized by Turkish Cypriot authorities and thus were overly monitored and controlled.
Improvements: Authorities took some steps to improve conditions and morale in the prisons. In May press reported that the then “minister of interior” signed an agreement to build a new prison; construction had not yet started at year's end. In July the interim “minister of interior” visited the prison together with the prison “director” to speak with inmates and review conditions of the cells, kitchens, rooms, offices, health unit, and workshops. During a lunch with press representatives, the “director” stated that the prison was open for visits, including by the media, provided that the “ministry” approved. The “minister” stated that there was a lack of teachers at the various workshops in the prison but noted improvements to inmates’ bathrooms and toilets, continued maintenance and repairs of windows and walls, installation of visitor toilets, installation of new televisions in certain sections, and the opening of a new butcher section.
In August authorities permitted a prison visit by a group of local journalists and hosted an iftar dinner for the group at the prison, where they were able to meet with inmates and prison employees.