“Instead of a Separate Prison, Conditions in Current Ones Should Be Improved”

Source: “LGBTİ’lere Ayrı Cezaevi Yerine Koşulları İyileştirsinler” (“Instead of a Separate Prison, Conditions in Current Ones Should Be Improved”) Kaosgl.com, 20 April 2014, http://kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=16376

The debate for “separate prisons” for LGBTI inmates continues. “Isolation is already a part of prison life. Their priority should be preventing harassment of inmates by correctional officers”, “Instead of a separate prison, conditions in existing ones should be improved.”

The public discussion on the project to build separate prisons for LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex) individuals still continues in the press.  A reporter from the daily “Milliyet”, Aydil Durgun, asked the organizations Kaos GL, Hêvî LGBTİ, T-Der and SPoD LGBT for their thoughts on the debate started by the Ministry of Justice.

“Isolation is already a part of prison life”

Hayriye KARA, Attorney at Law (Kaos GL): “In Turkish Prisons, LGBTI individuals are already segregated due to their sexual orientations and sexual identities. They are, in a way, re-imprisoned in the prison population. Especially trans inmates are segregated citing “security” concerns. They are isolated, shunned and deprived of social activities. They are also kept from working; thus, left without income for personal items during their sentence.  Besides, Turkey has already been condemned by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) for its present treatment of LGBTI inmates.”

“There is no mention of rights violations committed by correctional officers.”

“Planning a separate prison project for LGBTI inmates before even considering improving the existing conditions in prisons is only a step to further isolate LGBTI individuals from society. Instead of combating social prejudices and striving for the human rights of LGBTI individuals, the government plans to build a separate prison not unlike a concentration camp citing ‘the security of LGBTI people.’

There is no mention of rights violations by correctional officers or ways to fight these occurrences in the project description. This proves their sincerity on the so-called ‘security’ aspect. A separate LGBTI prison is only another way to isolate, brand, expose and discriminate. This application is brazenly in violation of human rights as well as local and international laws. It is the institutionalization of the discrimination against LGBTI individuals.”

“Instead of a separate prison, they should improve on the existing conditions”

Rosida (Hêvî LGBTI activist): “I went through a 21 month incarceration in the F-type Kandıra 1 prison. I was not arrested on account of my LGBTI identity, I was inside for a political offence.

Instead of saying “we will open a special prison for LGBTIs,” Bekir Bozdağ should work on improving prison conditions in Turkey like abolishing F-type prisons as soon as possible. Building a separate prison for LGBTI individuals only proves the discrimination. It means we are going to send you to a different place because you are different. Their logic is this: same way man and women are segregated; LGBTIs should be more comfortable that way. They are looking at this from a moralistic point of view.

Openly LGBTI individuals are already subjected to different behavior. Those with similar sexual identities are kept in one ward. If there is only one LGBTI individual, then that person is condemned to a single person cell, even though the single person cell is reserved for solitary confinement punishments and/or infectious diseases. Isolation is already a part of the current situation.”

“There are LGBTI People who are molested by Correctional Officers in Prison.”

“The reason this subject came up nowadays is this: LGBTI inmates have declared “We are here” in a letter to the Ministry of Justice. There are many who have been pressured to cut their hair or were harassed and molested by guards. Most recently, you already know, some trans inmates started a hunger strike in Bafra T-Type Prison. They started it because they were molested by guards and beaten in public, because they were made to live in a dungeon within another. They have sent a letter about their demands. When something like this erupted – since the death of inmates are the Ministry of Justice’s responsibility – the Ministry brought up the issue of a separate prison.

“They forced me to see a psychiatrist”

“My identity was not known when I was first incarcerated as I looked like a straight man in public. After a 17-year-old child was murdered in Diyarbakır by his uncle for being a homosexual, I wrote letters to the Ministry of Justice and Constitution Commission stating “our right to life must be under protection if we are truly citizens of this country.” That is how my situation was found out in prison.

“Their approach towards me changed after that. When I went to hospital to visit the optometrist, they forced me to visit the psychiatry and general surgery department. After I told them ‘I did not make any such requests,’ they said ‘you need to go because of your letters.’ I accepted to see the psychiatrist in order to avoid my situation being heard as I was likely to get harassed and/or molested otherwise. After being forced to stay five months in a single person cell, I was released from prison pending the outcome of my trial.

“Such a Practice Would Detach LGBTI Prisoners from Their Families and Children”

Hilal Başak Demirbaş (SPoD / LGBTI Prisoners Working Group): “Unfortunately LGBTI individuals are subjected to discrimination in prisons as well as other parts of society. The ‘Prisoners with Special Needs’ study, conducted by the Civil Society in the Penal System Foundation (CISST), revealed the repression and discrimination faced by elderly, handicapped, foreign, woman and LGBTI inmates. Along with CISST, we have also started – as a part of our organization’s studies on social rights – to meet, talk about the problems faced by LGBTI inmates and to come up with solutions.”

“For example, Carolina is a foreign national inmate in jail for seven years. She was made to move to five different prisons and is still being held in a closed prison when it is her right to be held in an open prison. She is not permitted to pay her monetary penalty through work. Her ‘security’ is cited as explanation for the rejection of her request to work. That is the reason she remains in prison. There have been many instances where trans inmates like Carolina have been kept from open prisons, held off from working and forced to stay in prison with ways to pay their monetary penalties prevented.”

“Their identities will be exposed against their will”

“According to the response to CISST’s information inquiry on July 5th 2013, as of May 15th 2013, there are 79 LGBTI inmates in 18 different prisons. The highest with 11 trans people is Maltepe, where the trans inmates are kept in four different wards. Their socializing with other inmates is prevented and they are isolated from the rest of prison life. In prisons where there is only a single trans inmate, that person is kept in isolation throughout the rest of her sentence.

Those inmates, who are kept from general population citing ‘security’ concerns, are openly exposed, by the same grounds, to violence by the prison personnel. According to CISST report, almost all of the acts of violence, harassment and rape against LGBTI inmates are committed by prison personnel. Building a separate prison will not address any of these security concerns.

Convicts should be incarcerated where they have been arrested. Gathering LGBTI convicts in a separate prison will result in further isolating them from their families, children and friends, who visit them in prison. This will constitute a second punishment in addition to a prison term. This will also cause inmates who choose not to disclose their sexual identities to be exposed against their will. Considering the violence, attacks and murders against LGBTI in our country, the discovery of their identities should only pave the way for such dangers.”

“Those directly involved should be consulted”

Barış Sulu (Trans Consultation Center Founding Member): “The subject of whether to build a separate prison for LGBTI convicts is one that should be discussed with those affected by it. It is very disturbing and scary that the government would act in a way as if to say, ‘There is a problem in prisons so the way to address this is to isolate the LGBTI. I did it and it is done.’ I am honestly curious about how they came to this decision. As far as I know, there has not been an NGO that called for separate prisons.”

“Another point that upset all LGBTI was that they crossed out all expressions referring to ‘sexual identity’ and ‘sexual orientation’ in the latest constitutional readjustment on hate crimes. There are currently no laws protecting LGBTIs and our only hope is this framework, which have to be rectified immediately. Pretending to protect LGBTIs in prison does not look honest. The only way we can see how honest you are would be to legally state that LGBTs will not be discriminated against.”

“I have spoken to many trans individuals who spent time in prison and they support the construction of a separate prison for LGBTI and believe it will be much better compared with current conditions. This is because trans individuals are not let outside on the ground that “their safety cannot be assured,” they are barred from attending classes in prison and kept from working.”

“The state also fails to provide necessary information to those in a period of transition. None of the medical expenses, hormones or necessary hair-removal kits are supplied or paid for by the state. All medical needs of inmates should be guaranteed. I don’t understand why this guarantee is so hard to meet when it concerns transsexuals. Actually, the Social Security Administration (SGK) is by and large very vague about this.”


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