PRISONS IN JAPAN

Extracted from PRISONS IN JAPAN, produced by JAPAN FEDERATION OF BAR ASSOCIATIONS (NICHIBENREN) 1992, 1-3, KASUMIGASEKI 1-CHOME CHIYODA-KU, TOKYO 100,  JAPAN
INTRODUCTION
    It is said that prisons are a barometer of democracy. Japan's defeat in 1945 became a springboard for far-reaching systemic changes according to a new democratic institution. However, to this day Japan's prisons are run according to the prison law of 1908, the product of an age in which the Emperor was sovereign, and administrative directives whose primary intent is disciplinary. The focus of Japan's Prison Law is entirely on the authority of the prison officials. There is not a single provision whose intent is to protect the rights of the inmates. Practices in Japanese prisons such as those requiring inmates to request permission to read books or magazines or the system of penalties for rule infractions are out of step with the modern age. 

   In 1982, the government embarked upon a process of revising the Prison Law according to a self-declared policy of "codification, modernization and internationalization." A Penal Facility Bill was submitted to the National Diet (parliament). As it stands, the bill is entirely unacceptable. Not only does it perpetuated the present rules and policies presently in force in prisons but has been presented as a single package with a separate Police Detention Facility Bill which perpetuates the infamous daiyo-kangoku, that is police station cells used as "substitute prisons".
It has been demonstrated time and again that daiyo-kangoku is a hotbed for false charges. Japan Federation of Bar Associations (Nichibenren) has steadfastly opposed the two bills. It has set up a special headquarters to coordinate the movement of opposition to these bills. Thus far, the legislation package has been presented unsuccessfully twice to the Diet. In 1991 it was submitted once again, and is still under deliberation. In the past, Nichibenren has promoted adoption of a new prison law that protects the human rights of inmates. Now we have released our own official proposal for such a law, one that meets international standards of human rights. Saber Abe President Japan Federation of Bar Associations (Nichibenren) October 1992
 
JAPAN'S PRISON SYSTEM

1. LOW SENTENCED PRISONER TO GENERAL POPULATION RATIO
   In 1991 the average daily prison population in Japan was 45,749 inmates, including 38,657 sentenced and 6,949 unsentenced inmates and 143 inmates of other status. In 1990, 22,745 convicts were newly imprisoned. The ratio of sentenced inmates to the general population is at a very level compared to Western countries. By far the greatest number of offenses were for acts of theft and use of stimulant drugs.
2. RANKING OF SENTENCED PRISONERS
   The treatment that a convict receives depends upon his grade. New convicts are designated grade 4. They are promoted step by step to grade 1 according to appraisals of their work records, behaviour, sense of responsibility, etc. Restrictions are relaxed progressively in the higher grades, so that the convict is allowed to purchase more items, receive more visits or send and receive more letters.
3. PREDOMINANCE OF SECURITY PERSONNEL
  By the end of 1991, there were 74 main prisons, 117 branch prisons and 9 work-houses, for a total of 200 penal institutions. In 1992 there were 17,024 prison workers, 14,629 or 86% of which were security personnel. This amounts to an over-concentration on security and a fundamental insufficiency of social workers and counsellors.

1. CONVICT'S LIFE: MILITARY MARCHING AND STRIP SEARCHES

   The current prison law is lacking in specifics concerning the rights and duties of convicted detainees. For this reason, much is left to the discretion of the prison directors. Following is a generalised description of the life of convicts under the supervision of prison guards. All convicts are strip-searched when they enter the facility. This includes an anal examination, in which a glass rod is inserted into the anus. In the majority of facilities, strip searches are conducted twice daily, when convicts are transferred from the cell to the work-house and then on the way back from the work-house to the cell. The strip search also involves what convicts call "the can-can".
strip search of prisoner
STRIP SEARCH
   This examination requires the completely unclothed prisoner to raise his arms above his head and alternately raise each leg for the guard's inspection. In-cell inspections are held every morning. During the period of the inspection, all convicts are required to remain motionless in their cells in the seiza position (a formal posture of sitting on one's heels, a position that causes numbness of the limbs after a time). 

   Many penitentiaries force the convicts to march to and from the work-house or during transfers within the prison like the military. They are made to chant "one-two, one-two" as they march swinging their arms to shoulder height and goose-stepping. In some facilities, the convicts are required to shout out the "Five Principles" in unison every day before work begins. ... Working days are 8 hours long, every day except Saturdays, Sundays and holidays. 

   Toilet breaks are only permitted during fixed recess periods. Only a small number of convicts are able to received job training for the purpose of social rehabilitation. No wages are paid for the convicts work. Instead, and average of ¥3,204 (1991) is paid monthly as a gratuity. This money may, in principle, not be used while convicts are detained. Each facility has a set of prison rules governing convicts' behaviour. Ranging over numerous categories, these minutely detailed rules prohibit everything from suicide to running and writing on walls or posting papers. Violations are punishable. One prison prohibits convicts from standing around and watching others play go (a game like chess) during their free time.
2. UNHEALTHY AND FREEZING CELLS
   In general individual cells are about 3 tatami mats in area (approximately 5 square metres). Group cells holding 7-10 inmates are usually 8-10 tatami mats in area (approximately 13-16 square metres). In some of the older cells, toilet covers are used as seats and wash-basin covers are used as desks. Inadequate provision is made for sunlight or ventilation. With the exception of facilities in Hokkaido, Japan's prisons have no heating, and inmates are forced to pass the time in the cold. There are prisons with special windowless cells. All prisons designate precisely where one's toothbrush, soap and cup must be placed.
3.  MEALS AND CLOTHES FOR CONVICTS (SHAVEN HEAD AND UNIFORM)
   There are only a few kinds of food convicts are allowed to purchase with their own money. Generally, they can eat only what is provided by the facility. Because of inadequate funding the convict's diet provides only enough nutrition to avoid sickness. Insufficiency of protein and vitamins leaves convicts susceptible to colds. Little attention is made to preparation of appetising meals. Foreign objects sometimes turn up in the food. Some facilities allow only five minutes for meal times.
   All convicts are required to wear gray cotton prison garb issued by the facilities. Often, the garments are old and torn or the wrong size. In principle, wearing any other clothing is prohibited. Even in cold facilities, no special garments are issued for the cold. Moreover, convicts are prohibited from wearing two or more shirts to obtain an extra measure of warmth. During hot periods, convicts are not allowed to take off the warm clothing before the designated change from the winter to summer uniform. With the exception of grade 1 convicts or those soon to be released, all male convicts' heads are closely shaven.
   Convicts are not permitted to wipe away sweat except at specific times designated for the purpose. At many facilities, baths are permitted twice a week. Very often, bathing time is limited to ten minutes, including time for changing clothes (15 minutes by rule).