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 249 prisoners and detainees held as of August 21, 41 percent were foreigners, two-thirds of whom were Turkish citizens. The prison system held nine female prisoners and one juvenile. Approximately 35 percent of the prison population consisted of persons awaiting trial.
The area’s prison, located in the northern part of Nicosia and built in 1982, has a capacity of 291. The Journalists’ Association disagreed with the stated capacity and reported the prison was overcrowded and that the number of inmates and detainees incarcerated there exceeded the prison’s capacity. In March trade unions reported deficiencies in the prison, including working conditions and the status of guards and infrastructure. Authorities claimed they had addressed the problems. The prison did not separate adults and juveniles, and there were no detention or correction centers for children. There were concerns that women and children were detained for no legal cause. An NGO representative stated that facilities lacked health and other services and that inmates had limited access to washing water and hot water. Authorities stated the facility provided health services to inmates twice a week and these services were available for emergencies. Prisoners and detainees received health checks upon entry into the prison.
In September, 173 inmates from the prison held a two-day hunger strike to protest poor prison conditions. According to press reports, the inmates were protesting policy changes at the prison concerning the entry of goods into the prison, the parole board, and the “criminal procedure law.” According to a union representative, the prison’s infrastructure and capacity were not adequate to provide services to inmates.
Human rights advocates reported the prison had an inadequate level of health care and a lack of medical supplies; no full-time doctor, psychiatrist, or psychologist; and an insufficient number of social workers. Human rights activists also reported major problems in security, including a lack of measures to reduce violence between inmates and detainees, and overcrowded cells.
There were no reports of deaths in the prison or detention centers. Prisoners had access to sufficient food and potable water.
In February the press reported that prison guards held a two-hour warning strike to protest the limited amount of security they were allowed to provide, after a visitor attacked a guard.
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 inhuman 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 and light penalties to receive visitors every 15 days. Detainees could receive visitors every 30 days for a maximum of 30 minutes except during holidays. Authorities permitted convicted inmates and detainees a maximum of 40 minutes of telephone calls three days a week.
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 was permitted, but no local or international NGO had applied to do so. Over the past few years, press and media representatives visited the prison. According to one journalist, authorities permitted prison visits only when organized by Turkish Cypriot authorities and thus were excessively monitored and controlled. Authorities invited journalists to participate in various workshops and language course completion ceremonies for inmates.
Improvements: Authorities took some steps to improve conditions and morale in the prisons. In August authorities reported they opened a movie theater at the prison and organized literature nights for the inmates and detainees. In addition, the prison administration provided road safety courses and completion certificates to inmates and detainees. Authorities also announced the launch of a “reintegration into society” project, and the prison administration worked with the chambers of small shopkeepers and artisans to introduce vocational courses in 11 fields. Prison administrators, in cooperation with local universities, organized training in computers, language, effective communication, and solution-generating skills. Inmates could sell arts and crafts produced in prison at a fair on May 29.
In April prison administrators updated and revised the prison “legislation” to allow expansion and enlargement of the meeting area for families or guests of inmates and detainees. In addition, the administration created a reward system, allowing inmates and detainees to be rewarded with telephone conversations and more frequent television privileges for obeying prison commands.