CISST: Our Critiques of the LGBTI Prison and Suggestions for Solving the Problem

Source: Mustafa Eren, “LGBTİ Hapishanesine Yönelik Eleştirilerimiz ve Sorunun Çözümüne Dair Önerilerimiz” (“Our Critiques of the LGBTI Prison and Suggestions for Solving the Problem,”) 15 April 2014, http://lgbthapiste.wordpress.com/2014/04/15/lgbti-hapishanesine-iliskin-goruslerimiz-ve-onerilerimiz/

The Ministry of Justice responded to the Republican People’s Party Member of Parliament Veli Ağbaba’s inquiry by stating that they will establish a separate prison for inmates with “different sexual orientations.” This is not the first statement on this issue by the Ministry of Justice. The Ministry of Justice had previously stated that “a special penal institution is being planned for those convicts and detainees in the condition of being LGBT.”

As the Civil Society in the Penal System Foundation (CISST), we conducted a research project “Inmates with Special Needs” between November 2012- November 2013. Within this research, we submitted an application, within the right to information, to the ministry regarding LGBTI inmates. The Ministry responded on 24 July 2013 declaring that they will establish a separate prison for LGBTI inmates. We shared this information with the public and stated our critique of the issue.

When the Ministry declared its plan, we submitted a new application asking when and where the prison would be established. Their answer from 16 September 2013 stated that “it is not certain where and when the penal institution would be established, however, the project continues.”

We think it is necessary to share our critiques with the public again.

As the Civil Society in the Penal System Foundation, we do not find the special prison planned for LGBTI inmates to be positive and we criticize it. We have several reasons for our criticism:

  1. We want to know whether NGOs and academics have been consulted with regard to a development that will directly affect the lives of LGBTI inmates. We believe that prison administrations have been consulted in the planning of this prison but we do not believe that LGBTI inmates, NGOs or academics have. We believe decisions executed without consulting people who would be affected by them and the non-existence of ways to include them in decision-making mechanisms constitute an anti-democratic attitude. This is a sign of the level of democracy in Turkey. LGBTI inmates, relevant NGOs, and academics must be consulted before a special prison is established. The decision should be revised based on their opinions.
  2. It is important for inmates to be incarcerated in the areas they were arrested in for the judicial processes to run smoothly and for the inmates to continue their social and familial ties. According to the Ministry’s July 2013 response, there are 79 LGBTI inmates housed in 18 different prisons. Removing these inmates and putting them in a single separate prison would negatively affect the judicial process and break their social ties. This practice would mean “exile” and would be a second punishment following incarceration. LGBTI inmates should not be exiled to one prison in one city in Turkey in order for  the judicial process to run smoothly, to ensure that going to court is not torture (to be forced to go to different cities courts in the bad conditions of shuttles that last for hours), to ensure that they can meet their lawyers, to be in the same city as their families, children, and friends.
  3. Discrimination against LGBTI people in Turkey is a significant problem. Violence and hate crimes against LGBTI people is the most obvious sign of this discrimination. This discrimination continues in prisons and is experienced at different levels. Therefore, it is correct that there is a security problem regarding LGBTI inmates in prisons. For this reason, LGBTI inmates are not put together with other inmates and they are excluded from the common areas and social lives of prisons. For LGBTI inmates who are alone in the prison, this means solitary confinement. The Ministry of Justice will use the reasoning that a special prison will solve this security problem and end isolation. However:
  • Establishing an LGBTI prison and isolating them from other inmates is to institute discrimination and to discriminate through the state and through architecture.
  • Establishing an LGBTI prison means labeling all the inmates there. Sending inmates to prison will reveal people’s sexual orientation to their families and social circles without their consent.
  • This labeling via an LGBTI prison will not only affect inmates but also their visitors. The people who visit their relatives and friends will become visible. When we consider the fact that the latest prisons have been constructed outside of the city, and are inaccessible even by public transportation, this labeling will become even more problematic.
  • If the issue of security is raised, let us remember that LGBTI inmates are already housed in different wards and are kept separate from other inmates. Therefore, the known assaults, rape, and bad treatment of LGBTI inmates is not caused by other inmates but by prison employees. Building a separate LGBTI prison will not eradicate this security concern.
  • Another issue is whether inmates who have been sexually assaulted in prison and their rapists will be sent to these prisons. What will be the criteria for being sent here? This remains unknown.

Because of all these critiques and concerns, we view an LGBTI prison to be a negative development. As CISST, we do not agree with building a separate prison and therefore instituting discrimination, labelling inmates and their visitors, pushing inmates out of their social circles, exiling them, and punishing them again. We believe that we should be working towards solving discrimination and security problems they face in the existing prisons and engaging NGOs in the process. NGOs can work on LGBTI inmates to help eradicate isolation and work with prison employees to thwart discrimination. The will and attitude of prison administrations can help allow LGBTI inmates’ access to common areas and social activities, therefore ending isolation. It is not necessary to build a new prison to accomplish this. Showing will and involving NGOs and academics will constitute an important step.

 

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