Inmates in Turkey's Maltepe prison producing slippers for luxury brands, hotels

Inmates in Turkey's Maltepe prison producing slippers for luxury brands, hotels

Jale Özgentürk - ISTANBUL
Inmates in Turkeys Maltepe prison producing slippers for luxury brands, hotels

More than 100 inmates serving time in Istanbul’s Maltepe L-Type Closed Penitentiary Institution have been manufacturing slippers for Turkish and international luxury brands and hotels in ateliers run by a female entrepreneur.

“They are not convicts, they are my employees and this is not a prison, it is my atelier,” Çiğdem Dursun, the founder of the ateliers, told daily Hürriyet.

While Dursun aims to teach the inmates the production of textile-made slippers, which are mainly used in hotels, her genuine objective is to grant professions to inmates in which they can work after their release.

“Youngsters who will undergo training for a profession will more easily integrate into society after they are released,” Dursun said, stressing the importance of these jobs especially for juveniles between the ages 16 and 18.

With the two established ateliers, some 104 convicts have been manufacturing slippers to be worn indoors and in bathrooms for many Turkish and global high-street brands.

Dursun’s initiative is significant such that she is the first woman entrepreneur in Turkey to work with male prisoners. But she is not the only entrepreneur to realize such projects.

Turkey’s Workshops Institution, embodied within the Justice Ministry, has been attaching great importance to such policies aiming to contribute to the socialization of convicts, their integration to the society following their release and their obtainability of professions.

“It is voluntary work; it isn’t obligatory. We pick who’s going to work after certain consideration because there is much demand. We give professional competence certificates to those working,” said Murat Ünlü, the investigative judge of the institution.

“Our aim is to give 1,000 convicts certificates at European standards. It is an act of reclamation, not punishment,” he added.

Convicts from 302 prisons, out of 374, have been working in over 180 branches of activities from agriculture to construction, Ünlü said.

Some 2 million kilograms of fruits and 2.6 million kilograms of vegetables have been produced by these inmates, he added.

According to the figures Ünlü has provided, some 58,500 inmates undergo training to obtain professions and earn about 800 Turkish Liras (about $140) as salary per month, along with insurance, for their efforts.

Moreover, in monetary values, the efforts of these convicts contribute about 2.4 billion Turkish Liras (roughly $425 million) to the country’s economy, the official stressed.

With the immense amount of revenue generated, the Turkey’s Workshops Institution is the institution with the sixth largest budget in Turkey, Ünlü stressed.

But the income acquired from these activities is mainly used for the needs of the Justice Ministry.

The inmates, all from different age groups who are serving jail time for different offenses, regard working as a chance granted to them in prison.

“We come here in the morning like we are going to work and go back to our wards in the evening,” said a convict.

“Even one second of freedom is precious,” another inmate said.