Media focus opportunity to reform children’s prisons

The media has attached great importance to the Pozantı Prison in Adana, which has recently been in the spotlight due to allegations of the sexual abuse of minors by adult inmates.

Media focus opportunity to reform children’s prisons
The media has attached great importance to the Pozantı Prison in Adana, which has recently been in the spotlight due to allegations of the sexual abuse of minors by adult inmates. This has presented the government with an opportunity to investigate and reform Turkey’s problematic juvenile detention centers, according to a renowned Turkish psychiatrist. Speaking to Sunday’s Zaman, Üsküdar University Rector Professor Nevzat Tarhan, a retired colonel and psychiatrist, said the government’s attitude towards the Pozantı incident is a positive development and the media has shown great responsibility in its coverage by maintaining a close focus on the incident. “In the short term, the state should not only provide financial assistance to those children, but also psychological support. The procedures at the juvenile detention center are showing how problematic the health policies of the Social Services and Child Protection Agency [SHÇEK] are. It is not sufficient to provide shelter, food and drink to those children. They also have psychological needs, but these are being ignored. Of course social needs are important, but possible traumas are inevitable without psychological support,” said Tarhan. According to Tarhan, a 2007 parliamentary commission report on violence should be dusted off and form the basis of the government’s medium-term policies. Furthermore, Tarhan says that in the long run the government should pay attention to reports prepared by the World Health Organization (WHO) on juvenile detention centers and implement the necessary changes in Turkey. Three busloads of minors were pulled out of the Pozantı Juvenile Detention Center on Tuesday morning to mark the first wave of prisoner transfers from the Adana-based detention center amid allegations of the sexual abuse of minors. A total of 200 minors are to be transferred to Ankara’s Sincan Juvenile Detention Center by the weekend. The decision to remove the minors from the detention center was announced by Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin last week, following the removal of four officials -- including the deputy director of the detention center -- from their posts. Despite the controversy surrounding the case, Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç on Monday said concrete evidence regarding rape or sexual abuse is yet to emerge. Tarhan says it is not a surprise to hear such claims of sexual abuse in Pozantı; the real surprise is the lack of reports of incidents from other prisons. He said Turkey faced the same trouble at Diyarbakır Prison in the 1980s, where minors were jailed together with adults and many were sexually abused and harassed by other inmates or prison personnel, and most of the people who suffered abuse had either joined separatist organizations or went on to lead very problematic lives due to psychological trauma. He argued that the unbearable conditions which minors were exposed to at detention centers in Diyarbakır were one of the reasons for the rise in support for terrorist organizations in the southeastern and eastern regions of Turkey. Tarhan said the state should immediately take the appropriate steps at the Pozantı detention center to stop history from repeating itself. “It was good to see the immediate response of the Ministry of Justice to this case when it was first heard. Clear willpower is being shown by the government, but the media should not allow this problem to fade away before concrete action is taken,” he added. Parliament’s Human Rights Commission head Ayhan Sefer Üstün said last week the Human Rights Commission had issued a report in the previous legislative term mentioning the persistent and systematic abuse of inmates in Pozantı and suggesting that it be closed down. It is also likely that the commission will establish a sub-committee to work specifically on the Pozantı case. The commission’s report noted that the Pozantı Correctional Facility, opened in 1987, was an adults-only prison until 2007, when it was converted into a juvenile facility. Pozantı has a capacity of 282 inmates. In addition to minors, the prison frequently hosted adults waiting to be transferred to other correctional facilities. The report warned that substance abuse was rampant among the minors in the prison and that the commission had placed it on a list of “correctional facilities whose operations should be ceased.” According to the report, Pozantı did not have a CCTV system installed at the time -- a security flaw that opened the door to abuse, the commission’s members said. There were also negative assessments of the physical conditions of the wards, with some beds not even having sheets or pillows. The prison administration rarely checked the real age of the inmates, according to the report, frequently leading to the placement of inmates over the age of 18 with minors. The report said older inmates frequently mistreated the younger ones. In addition to Pozantı, the Bergama and İncesu correctional facilities were listed among the prisons whose operations should be ceased. TODAYS’A ZAMAN
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