You do not beg the sun for mercy

The severity of Japanese prisons has recently become a topic of renewed controversy within the country and abroad. Some progressive lawyers decry the denial of privacy and other civil rights that murderers and robbers in most other industrial countries appear to enjoy. They have invited foreign observers to evaluate Japanese conditions and sponsored an international human rights report. The controversial Human Rights Watch Prison Project report, Prison Conditions in Japan, includes the most commonly expressed accusations. Instances of physical abuse by guards, the extreme rigidity of the system, the lack of any conception of prisoners’ rights, and limitations on prisoner’s communication with the outside head the list. Ministry of Justice officials and many reputable scholars contest these views. Even the critics concede that Japanese prisons do not suffer from the most common problems found in prisons in other countries. They are not overcrowded. Incidents of escape are extraordinarily rare. Japanese prisoners do not have access to drugs. There is little violence among inmates. Few are idle. Prisoners sentenced to imprisonment without a work requirement (kinko) it is said, often want to work voluntarily to avoid remaining in a small cell all day.

John Owen Haley, The Spirit of Japanese Law, 2006, p.83


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