Managing Turkey’s Marginalized Youth: ‘Managerialism’ in Turkey’s Youth Justice and Penal Systems

Published date01 April 2024
AuthorNilay Kavur
Date01 April 2024
Subject MatterOriginal Articles
Youth Justice
2024, Vol. 24(1) 132 –147
© The Author(s) 2023
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/14732254231184771
Managing Turkey’s Marginalized
Youth: ‘Managerialism’ in Turkey’s
Youth Justice and Penal Systems
Nilay Kavur
Since the early 2000s, Turkey’s youth justice system has undergone extensive reforms. However, it is centred
around high-security remand imprisonment. Based on the research conducted between 2014 and 2015 to
comprehend how high-security remand imprisonment has acquired such a central role, this article provides
an analysis on the ways in which the system has diverted into a peculiar ‘managerialism’. Certain themes
emerged revealing the turn to ‘managerialism’: (1) lack of coordination between different professional units
and lack of evidence-based policymaking, (2) prioritization of speed and technology, (3) peripheral role of
social work officials and (4) the importance of prisons.
criminal justice, managerialism, prison, security, social work, Turkey, youth justice
Turkey’s youth justice system and penal system in general have undergone extensive
reforms in all aspects, within the legislative, judiciary and executive strands since the
early 2000s: legislations have been amended and new courthouses have been constructed
along with the introduction of new management technologies, such as the Sound and
Video Information System and the National Judiciary Informatics System. Hundreds of
small district prisons have been closed down since 2006 as they did not meet international
standards and about a hundred new ‘healthy, secure, and electronically equipped prisons
that are eligible for rehabilitation services’ (Directorate General of Prisons and Detention
Houses, n.d.) have been constructed. In conjunction with the acceleration of Turkey’s
accession to the European Union (EU), many judges, prosecutors, police, prison guards,
teachers, religious officials and healthcare professionals have received various trainings
Corresponding author:
Nilay Kavur, Koç University, Rumeli Feneri Yolu, Sarıyer, 34450 İstanbul, Turkey.
1184771YJJ0010.1177/14732254231184771Youth JusticeKavur
Original Article
Kavur 133
in human rights (Babül, 2017). Youth justice system workers have received a great share
of these reforms and trainings (Buker et al., 2019). This reform process indicated an
enhancement of child welfare at the discursive level. Despite the extensive reform pro-
cess, the system has not evolved into a model embracing and prioritizing child welfare
and protection.
Instead, a peculiar type of prison has emerged from all of the newly built facilities; that
is, a high-security remand prison for young pre-trial detainees. This new remand prison
has become the central element of the system to manage youth in conflict with the law and
reveals a securitization process that does not reflect the discourse of reforms. Between
2014 and 2015, I conducted fieldwork to understand how high-security remand imprison-
ment has attained such a central position and what role(s) it performs in the youth justice
system. The results related to this particular question have been published elsewhere
(Kavur, 2021). The operation of the whole youth justice system has been studied in order
to situate remand prisons within this system. Observations in the courts and prisons and
narratives from youth justice professionals, reveal certain characteristics that indicated a
managerialist turn, as mentioned previously by Uluğtekin (2014). This article contributes
to the scarce literature on Turkey’s youth and criminal justice systems by thoroughly dis-
cussing this managerialist approach.
The managerialist trend has penetrated various strands of the public sector in criminal
justice, social services, health and education systems in various geographies; particularly
in the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, but also
in countries like Sweden with a stronger welfare regime (Harlow et al., 2012; Robert,
2005b). This trend is considered to be a part of the neoliberal turn (Harlow et al., 2012;
Lewiskin et al., 2021). One of the aspects of the neoliberal strategy is to shift the respon-
sibility of public welfare provision from the state to the third parties, such as the private
sector or non-governmental organizations, while accountability of these third parties are
controlled mostly by quantifiable market goals. Hence, professionals such as social work-
ers both in the public and private sectors are caught between their professional values and
managerial priorities. In the broad sense, managerial discourse is criticized for highlight-
ing quantifiable and routinized aspects of public welfare provision and overlooking quali-
tative aspects and, most importantly, the autonomy of individual professions (Olakivi and
Niska, 2017). Along with this de-professionalization, there is a managerial drive for
increased performance in economy, efficiency, effectiveness and evidence-based prac-
tices (Harlow et al., 2012). ‘Taking ‘politics’ out of policy, and focusing on pure techni-
cism (Harlow et al., 2012: 538) is one of the ways to describe the managerialist trend.
This managerialist turn takes different shapes in different country contexts and mani-
fests itself variously in different sectors. In Turkey, according to the literature, managerial
values disclose themselves in the health and civil society sectors. For instance, Zihnioğlu
(2019) draws attention to the depoliticization of civil society through the funders’ expec-
tancy on short-term and measurable outcomes. In her work on manifestations of human
rights reforms in Turkey, Babül (2017), refers to a tendency to measure success with
quantifiable targets. Agartan (2019), states that Turkey has experimented New Public
Management reforms since the 1980s in public sector facilities and particularly on health.
Her findings indicate physicians’ concern over the erosion of professional autonomy,

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