Prisons in the Late Ottoman Empire

Prisons in the Late Ottoman Empire: Microcosms of Modernity

Kent F. Schull
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 240
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  • Book Info
    Prisons in the Late Ottoman Empire
    Book Description:

    The Western world stereotypically associates Ottoman or 'Turkish' prisons with images of torture, narcotics and brutal sexual behaviour. Now, Kent F. Schull argues that these prisons were actually a site of immense reform and contestation during the 19th century. It was within these prisons' walls that many of the pressing questions of Ottoman modernity were worked out; questions of administrative centralisation, Islamic criminal law and punishment, gender and childhood, prisoner rehabilitation, bureaucracy, identity and social engineering.By juxtaposing them with the reality of prison life, Schull investigates how state-mandated reforms affected the lives of local prison officials and inmates. He shows how these individuals actively conformed to, contested and manipulated new penal policies and practices for their own benefit.

    eISBN: 978-0-7486-7769-6
    Subjects: History, Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vi-vi)
  4. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. vii-vii)
  5. Note on Transliteration and Pronunciation
    (pp. viii-viii)
  6. Preface
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  7. Introduction
    (pp. 1-16)

    In 1851 and again in 1918–19 British officials assigned to the Ottoman Empire conducted extensive inspections of the empire’s prisons and drew up detailed reports of what they found. Notwithstanding their imperialist and orientalist undertones, these reports describe Ottoman prisons as being in a serious state of disrepair.¹ Stratford Canning, the famous British Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, commissioned the 1851 inspections with the intent to assist the Ottomans in reforming their criminal justice system. He ordered British Foreign Office representatives stationed throughout the empire to undertake a comprehensive inspection of prisons in order to ascertain their deficiencies and...

  8. 1 Ottoman Criminal Justice and the Transformation of Islamic Criminal Law and Punishment in the Age of Modernity, 1839–1922
    (pp. 17-41)

    Over the course of the long nineteenth century (c. 1770s–1922) the Ottoman Empire experienced a series of internal and external crises that included separatist movements, rebellions, fiscal problems, numerous wars, and European imperialism. In the face of these threats, sultans and administrators attempted vigorous plans of reform aimed at transforming the bureaucracy, legal and education systems, economy, population, and military. As part of this overall restructuring programme, Ottoman statesmen included efforts to create a criminal justice system. Therefore, when the Young Turks, led by members of the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP), deposed Sultan Abdülhamid II and created...

  9. 2 Prison Reform in the Late Ottoman Empire: The State’s Perspectives
    (pp. 42-66)

    The 1850s constitute a very important transitional period for prison reform in the Ottoman Empire. As discussed in the Introduction and in Chapter 1, the convergence of British inspections of Ottoman prisons, theIslahat Fermaný,and the promulgation of the Imperial Ottoman Penal Code (IOPC) drew attention to many criminal justice related issues and prepared the ground for extensive prison reform efforts. First, the inspections revealed the dire state of the incarcerated and the need for state intervention to improve conditions. Second, theIslahat Fermanýannounced an aggressive agenda to create, expand, and overhaul the Ottoman criminal justice system, including...

  10. 3 Counting the Incarcerated: Knowledge, Power and the Prison Population
    (pp. 67-110)

    As mentioned in Chapter 2, soon after its creation in May 1911, the Prison Administration began to organise a detailed prison survey. This survey commenced on 18 January 1912 by eliciting information regarding every aspect of prisons, including budgets, health care, employees, prison labour, and inmates. Categories of inquiry associated with prisoners included crimes committed, gender, date of incarceration, marital and familial status, recidivism, punishment, social class and occupation, ethno-religious/national identity, age, and literacy. The survey broke down each of these categories further into lists of specific items related to the prisoner’s identity. For example, familial status differentiated its various...

  11. 4 The Spatialisation of Incarceration: Reforms, Response and the Reality of Prison Life
    (pp. 111-141)

    From July 1909 to August 1910 Ahmed Serif, an Ottoman journalist, travelled throughout the Balkans, Anatolia, and some of the empire’s Arabic-speaking territories reporting on what he observed for theTaninnewspaper (the semi-official newspaper of the Ottoman Government). Of special interest to him was investigating the effectiveness of government administration in each area. As part of each of his journeys he visited each town’s government buildings, courts, police, gendarme, and prison. His reports are detailed and surprisingly candid concerning administrative problems, such as corruption, nepotism, and abuse by government officials. These reports provide rich insights into the state of...

  12. 5 Disciplining the Disciplinarians: Combating Corruption and Abuse through the Professionalisation of the Prison Cadre
    (pp. 142-165)

    Usually when the topic of discipline and prisons is broached, the first items of discussion are Jeremy Bentham’s prison panopticon and Michel Foucault’sDiscipline and Punish.The panopticon was designed to provide prison guards with maximum surveillance over inmates, therefore facilitating the guards’ ability to control, discipline, and rehabilitate the incarcerated. This design enabled prison officials to peer into every cell and continuously supervise prisoners while remaining hidden from view. This act of unseen surveillance was supposed to instil prisoner selfdiscipline. For Foucault, this act represented the ultimate example of the state’s ability to control and dominate society through the...

  13. 6 Creating Juvenile Delinquents: Redefining Childhood in the Late Ottoman Empire
    (pp. 166-190)

    According to the results of the 1912 Ottoman prison survey, Beni Saab’s prison in Beirut province contained 447 prisoners–two females and 445 males. The localnizamiyecourt convicted 373 prisoners of less serious offences (cünha ve kabahat), and the other seventy-four individuals were awaiting trial. Among the 373 sentenced inmates, three males were convicted of deviant sexual behaviour (fi’ il-i seni).¹ In modern Turkish this term refers almost exclusively to sodomy, but in late Ottoman times it also included any action considered to be ‘deviant’ sexual behaviour not allowed under Islamic law, including prostitution.² It also implies consensual participation...

  14. Conclusion
    (pp. 191-200)

    When British Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, Sir Stratford Canning, submitted his ‘Memorandum on the Improvement of Prisons in Turkey’ to Sultan Abdülmecid I in 1851, he summarised his observations of Ottoman prison conditions and administration accordingly:

    In Turkey where prisons exist in every city and town of a certain extent, and where little attention has hitherto been paid to the science of constructing and administering them, there is ample room for improvement without any considerable out lay. Much unnecessary bodily suffering, much of the evil resulting from moral contagion and from a corrupt and cruel exercise of authority not...

  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 201-216)
  16. Index
    (pp. 217-226)