Are Japanese Prisons Harsh? (Behind Bars In Japan)

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Japanese prisons are known for their strict rules and disciplined approach to handling their inmates.

They place great value on the reintegration of inmates into society, giving them the tools, they need to thrive in the outside world.

Are Japanese Prisons Harsh
Japanese prisons

But just how strict is it inside a Japanese prison?

Let’s take a look.

Conditions in Japanese Prisons

The conditions within Japanese prisons can vary.

Some ex-inmates report positive experiences, whereas others find the strict routine challenging.

Japan aims to balance rehabilitation with punishment, maintaining a secure environment for the inmates.

The Daily Routine in Japanese Prisons

The daily routine may vary depending on the type of facility and the type of prisoners incarcerated there (maximum, medium, or minimum security).

Discipline Japanese prisons
Japanese prison system

But generally, they will follow a fairly set daily routine:

  • Morning Routine: This will consist of a wake-up call around 6:00 am. Then, prisoners will get time to attend to their personal hygiene, including teeth brushing, face washing, and using the restroom. There will usually be a cell inspection, checking for cleanliness and compliance with the rules of the prison.
  • Breakfast: Prisoners will be provided with a basic breakfast, usually consisting of rice, miso soup, pickled vegetables, and a small side dish.
  • Education or work: After breakfast, prisoners will engage in work or educational activities. This promotes rehabilitation and skill development. Work assignments may include manufacturing, agriculture, or helping to look after the prison grounds. Educational programs may consist of academic courses, or sessions aimed at behavior or substance abuse issues.
  • Lunch: Prisoners are served a simple lunch of rice, a main dish (either meat or fish), side dishes, and soup.
  • Recreation and Exercise: Inmates are allowed a small amount of time for indoor and outdoor recreational activities, such as exercise and sports. This helps to improve mental well-being and physical fitness.
  • Afternoon Activities: Prisoners may engage in additional work or education after this recreational period.
  • Dinner: Dinner is usually served in the evening, and follows a similar routine to lunch, providing a simple, balanced meal to the prisoners.
  • Evening Routine: After their dinner, prisoners have limited free time within their assigned living areas or cells. They may use this time to take showers, engage in quiet activities, such as writing letters and reading, and do personal laundry.
  • Lights Out: Lights out is usually around 10:00 pm. The lights will be turned off and prisoners are expected to sleep. Final checks are conducted by prison staff, ensuring the safety and security of the facility.

Classification and Security in Japanese Prisons

Japanese prisons are well-known for their disciplined approach to incarceration and their strict rules.

Usually, upon entering the prison system, inmates will be classified depending on their offense, criminal history, and behavior.

Security in Japanese Prisons facts
Security in Japanese Prisons

This also determines the level of security that will be provided at the prison and the supervision that will be required during their sentence.

Reintegration and Rehabilitation Programs

As seen in the daily routine, there is great value placed on reintegration and rehabilitation in the Japanese prison system.

There are various programs available designed to help inmates develop skills, complete productive work, and gain an education.

Work programs are designed to provide vocational training, instill a sense of discipline and work ethic, and prepare inmates for employment after release.

Common industries for work programs include:

  • manufacturing
  • farming
  • cleaning
  • and groundskeeping

Visitation is strictly limited to just close family and friends. Contact is always through glass barriers and conversations can be monitored.

Routine and Discipline in Japanese Prisons

As mentioned, routine and discipline are the backbone of the Japanese prison system.

The strict routine sees prisoners waking up early, engaging in daily physical exercise, and having structured mealtimes. Any violation of the rules and routine can result in disciplinary measures.

Solitary confinement is used as a disciplinary measure for prisoners who break rules. It has faced some criticism for its impact on prisoners’ mental health.

Routine in Japanese prisons
Conditions in Japanese prisons

Death sentences, although carried out, are incredibly rare, and there is a lengthy legal process before this can be carried out.

Some may view the rigorous routines as harsh, but there are strict laws and regulations in place to ensure prisoners’ basic rights are respected.

Many prisoners claim they feel safe and secure in the prison environment due to the strict routines that they may have lacked in their upbringing.

Treatment of Juvenile Offenders

Juvenile offenders are treated slightly differently from adult offenders. The aim is to provide age-appropriate education and rehabilitation.

Juvenile detention focuses on vocational training, counseling, recreational activities, and education to help young people to be rehabilitated in society.

Final Thoughts on Are Japanese Prisons Harsh

Japanese prisons can be harsh, with strict uniforms and routines enforced at all times.

This stern approach, however, does yield excellent results, with many of Japan’s prisoners being successfully rehabilitated in society.

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