The decree is one of several issued under a state of emergency. It comes amid reports of prison overcrowding following last month's failed coup attempt. Thousands of people have been arrested in the resulting crackdown.
The Turkish government issued a series of decrees Wednesday, the most notable one paving the way for the provisional release of 38,000 convicted criminals. The government gave no reason for the reform, but it would serve to free up prison space for alleged coup plotters.
The judicial order applies to prisoners with a record of good behavior and two years or less remaining in their sentence. Those convicted of violent crimes - murder, rape, domestic abuse, terrorism, or crimes against the state - are not eligible for early release.
Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag insisted on Twitter that it was a conditional release of prisoners, not a pardon or an amnesty. He described it as a "supervised release."
The measures would not apply for crimes committed after July 1, so would exclude anyone later convicted of involvement in the coup.
Since last month's attempted coup the government has detained some 35,000 people for questioning. The putsch led to at least 270 deaths. The government accuses the coup plotters of being followers of the US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen.
The government alleges so-called Gulenists infiltrated the military and other state institutions.
Gulen has denied any prior knowledge or involvement in the coup attempt but Turkey is demanding his extradition from the United States. Gulen has been living in self-imposed exile in the US state of Pennsylvania since 1999. Turkish prosecutors have called for Gulen to be punished with two life sentences and an additional 1,900 years in prison.
More decrees, more suspects
In another decree, more than 2,000 police officers and hundreds of members of the military and the BTK communication technology authority were also dismissed. They, too, are accused of having links to Gulen.
Turkish officials have also accused the US government of being behind the coup. The accusations have been vehemently denied in Washington.
Additional decrees include the closure of the TIB telecoms authority, and another that gives the president the authority to appoint the head of the armed forces - all have been published in the country's Official Gazette.
The latest decrees are issued under the authority of a three-month state of emergency that took effect July 21 - six days after the failed coup.
Tens of thousands of civil servants have been dismissed or suspended as part of a massive purge in the aftermath of the putsch, which reportedly involved a group of rogue soldiers who seized tanks, warplanes and helicopters in their attempt to topple the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Thousands of private schools, charities and other institutions, which the government accuses of having ties to Gulen, have also been forced to close.
bik/se (AFP, dpa AP, Reuters)