Prison conditions were reportedly unsanitary, overcrowded, harsh, and in some cases life threatening; however, facilities visited by representatives of the diplomatic corps in Bayram Ali juvenile detention center and Dashoguz women’s prison, appeared more satisfactory. Some facilities, such as minimum security camp LBK-12 in Lebap Province, were in areas where inmates reportedly experienced extremely harsh climate conditions, with excessive heat in summer and frigid temperatures in winter. There were 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. Persons in pretrial detention facilities were predominantly those sentenced but not transferred to penal colonies. The six pretrial detention facilities reportedly were designed for 1,120 persons, but likely held many times that number.
According to Turkmenistan’s Independent Lawyers Association and the Turkmen Initiative for Human Rights, there were 22 prisons and 30,452 prisoners in Turkmenistan as of September. The BLD-4 pretrial detention facility in Balkan Province, under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, reportedly held adults and juveniles together and included persons in pretrial detention, on remand, and those already convicted but not transferred to penal colonies.
Diseases, particularly tuberculosis (TB), were reportedly widespread in prisons. There were reports that due to overcrowding, officials held inmates diagnosed with TB and skin diseases with healthy detainees, contributing to the spread of disease. Nonetheless, a representative of an international organization reported that at least in and around Ashgabat, authorities held inmates with TB separately from healthy detainees. The Ministry of Internal Affairs reported in the past that inmates with TB were held separately from healthy inmates at the Dashoguz women’s prison. There continued to be concerns the government did not adequately test and treat prisoners with TB before they returned to the general population, despite government claims to the contrary. The opposition website, Alternative News of Turkmenistan (ANT) reported prison authorities were ordered to report a 65 percent decrease in TB infection and declared infected prisoners healthy. In the past, the government reported it transferred male prisoners diagnosed with TB to a special Ministry of Internal Affairs hospital in Mary Province for treatment and arranged for continuing treatment for released prisoners at their residences. There were also reports of high rates of cardiovascular disease.
In April ANT reported that the warden of Ovadan Depe prison, Sary Komekov, banned all types of medications in parcels, alleging their relatives were sending opioid drugs. Komekov argued that the medical unit of the prison could provide medications to prisoners; however, ANT reported that the medical unit provided only basic medication such as pain relievers. ANT alleged that political dissidents and those convicted of religious crimes were not allowed to receive parcels. According to ANT, one prisoner died in 2016 in Ovadan Depe prison as a result of prison officials denying access to necessary medical treatment. ANT also claimed that for 100 manat ($28) a prisoner could buy a 10-day supply of vitamins. ANT reported that a prisoner could pay a bribe of 1,750 manat ($500) in order to get a referral to a better prisoner hospital in Mary.
ANT reported that TB and breast and uterine cancers were common in Dashoguz women’s prison. Former inmates of the prison reported one to two women died each month from breast or uterine cancer.
In July Chronicles reported the nutritional value of prison food was generally poor, and some prisoners suffered from malnutrition. Prisoners depended on relatives to supplement inadequate prison food. Some family members and inmates stated prison officials occasionally confiscated food parcels. It was not possible to determine whether potable water was available.
In 2016 the government reported to the UN Committee against Torture that many prisoners worked in factories that produce clothing, wooden items, bedding, badges, uniforms, bricks, and toilet paper.
Administration: According to relatives, prison authorities denied food, medical, and other supplies brought by family members to some prisoners; sometimes denied family members’ access to prisoners; and did not make religious facilities available to all prisoners. The government allowed foreign diplomats to access nationals of their countries in detention facing criminal charges. The government did not provide information on whether prisoners were permitted religious observance, or on systematic monitoring of prison and detention center conditions. The government did not confirm whether it established a prison ombudsman.
Independent Monitoring: During the year government officials allowed members of the diplomatic corps to visit the Bayram Ali juvenile detention center in Mary Province. The government allowed members of the diplomatic corps to visit the women’s prison in Dashoguz in 2015. In both cases, it was not clear whether the conditions of the prison were authentic. Outside of individual consular visits, there were no other prison visits by the diplomatic community. The International Committee of the Red Cross reported minimal prison access in 2012-2013, but stated the access granted did not meet its basic visit access standards. In 2016 the diplomatic community requested, but was not granted access to the adult prison near Ovadan Depe.
Improvements: In June ANT reported that the government enlarged several prison facilities including MR-K/16 in Bairamali and other prisons in Seydi, Tejen, and Turkmenabat. According to prisoners’ relatives who visited Bairamali prison in March-April, prisoners were used in the construction of new buildings, especially during the final stages of construction. Relatives stated that the new facilities could accommodate up to 1,000 prisoners at each facility.
There were reports that treatment of prisoners and food quality improved in correctional facilities in Ahal, Lebap, and Mary provinces.