|Previous Next Index   Image Index Year Selection|
2. Council on Prison Administration Reform
From2002to2003,a series of inmates'deaths and injuries in Nagoya Prison were revealed,and several prison officers were arrested,which damaged the public trust in the prison administration.The issue was discussed also in Diet,and some problems of penal institutions were pointed out,including the medical care system and necessity for transparency in their operation.
The Ministry of Justice has established preventative measures against those deaths of inmates,such as the abolition of conventional leather handcuffs and transition to alternatives.However,considering that the reform is a serious and broad issue,it was thought necessary to review it from the standpoint of the public,gathering the opinions of the public across the nation.Then,the Council on Prison Administration Reform composed of intellectuals delegated by the Minister of Justice,was convened on March31,2003.As a result of broad-based discussions on the overall problems of penal institutions,the "Recommendation of the Council on Prison Administration Reform:Toward Prisons Based on Public Understanding and Support" was submitted to the Minister of Justice on December22,2003.
(1) Outline of"Recommendation of the Council of Penal Institutions:Toward Prisons Basedon PublicUnderstanding and Support"
The recommendation consists of three major pillars:
(i)reforms for promoting true reform and social rehabilitation of convicted prisoners while respecting their human dignity;(ii)reforms for reducing excessive burden on prison officers;(iii)reforms for prisons open to the public.
Furthermore,under the title of a road map toward reform, it was recommended that,as an interim measure,they should start with what can be done immediately,and then go on to other problems,and that they should make every effort to fully amend the existing Prison Law,which was enacted in the Meiji Era(Law No.28of1908)
(2) Main points of the recommendation
The main points of the recommendation are as follows.
(i) Reforms for promoting true reform and social rehabilitation of convicted prisoners while respecting the irhuman dignity
In order to promote individual treatment according to the characteristics of each prisoner,the present treatment contents have become rigid due to the eight hours of labor required everyday of all prisoners sentenced to imprisonment with labor.A revise of classification and accommodation should be considered in order to ensure individual treatment that is really needed by each inmate,and treatment programs other than prison work should be enhanced.
In particular,those who are difficult to deal with and those with drug dependency should be accommodated separately in groups,and a suitable environment and system should be developed to improve effective treatment programs other than prison work for them.
Conventional employment of the current Progressive Treatment System should be altered,and a new compensation system should be introduced to increase prisoners'incentive to truly reform themselves.
Regulations at penal institutions should not be unnecessarily stringent,should not harm the human dignity of inmates,and should not be extraordinarily irrational in light of socially-accepted ideas.From this viewpoint,regulations at penal institutions need to be reviewed.
The scope of people with whom a prisoner's external communications is allowed should be expanded from family members to friends and acquaintances if it is effective for the steady reform and social rehabilitation of the prisoner,and the use of telephones under certain conditions should also be considered.
Two human-rights redress systems need to be established:a grievance system for prisoners'protests against dispositions such as disciplinary punishment and withdrawal of permission of external communication,etc.and another protest system for filing complaints against any treatments imposed on inmates,not limited to disposition.In the former system,written protest should first be filed to the superintendent of a Regional Correction Headquarter,and then request for reexamination can be filed to the Minister of Justice.If the Minister of Justice decides that an inmate's statement of complaint is unfounded,he should leave judgment to a screening panel composed of third parties independent of the department in charge of correction,until an independent organization to monitor human rights is established.
It is necessary to implement effective training and to review the present personnel reshuffling system for the reform of staff's awareness of human rights.
(ii) eforms for reducing excessive burden on prison officers
Staff's administrative authority should be clarified,and the defect of the existing Prison Law that has no provisions to back up their use of force on inmates should be amended.
Furthermore,for the treatment for those who are difficult to deal with,excessive burden imposed on individual staff members should be reduced,and systematic measures should be considered such as a support system for staff by way of utilizing lay people with professional knowledge,and deployment of multiple staff members.
Ongoing improvement and operation of penal institutions through private finance initiative(PFI)method have been on the right track for the development of human and physical framework of penal institutions.Furthermore,if the number of inmates increases at the same pace as in the last three years,a substantial increase of prison personnel should be required.
For the mental health of staff members,consultation services should be established in the Regional Correction Headquarters or the Correction Bureau,and counseling services should be provided.
(iii) Reforms for prisons open to the public
To date,the information on penal institutions has not been actively disclosed.Major official directions and instructions,information related to treatment and all deaths of inmates should be disclosed in order to create"prisons that are understood and supported by the public."
Furthermore,the Prison Visiting Committee(provisional title)should be established in order to support adequate operation of prisons and enhance the partnership between prisons and communities,as well as to ensure transparency through opening prisons to the public.
(3) Efforts for reforms
Based on the discussions and recommendations by the Council on Prison Administration Reform of Penal Institutions,the Correction Bureau of the Ministry of Justice has started various reforms of penal institutions as follows.Further fundamental reforms,however,are required such as the revision of the Prison Law.
(i) Efforts for promoting true reform and social rehabilitation of convicted prisoners while respecting their human dignity
From the viewpoint of monitoring to ensure that duties are being executed appropriately,when an inmate is placed in a protection cell(solitary cell containing appropriate equipment and structure set up for calming and protection of inmates;hereinafter the same),it became obliged to videotape the whole process from beginning of confinement in it to end and the overall situation of force execution by staff.
In order to improve treatment of inmates,counseling services by professional staff such as psychologists are provided for those inmates who are difficult to deal with.
To improve medical care,screening tests for hepatitis C and general blood tests including hepatic function indicator tests are scheduled be provided for inmates of certain age.Furthermore,discussions with related agencies have been started in order to secure enough doctors in penal institutions and to facilitate cooperation with medical institutions in communities.
Other reforms have been adopted such as the arrangement of procedures related to reports and records of inmates'deaths,enhancement of the handling system for inmates'grievances in the Ministry of Justice,and more frequent implementation of internal inspections.
(ii) Efforts for reducing excessive burden of prison officers
Consultation services for staff members were established in the Ministry of Justice and the Regional Correction Headquarters,etc.,and a new system was put into operation that enables staff to submit their ideas for improving duties directly to the Correction Bureau by e-mail.To enhance human rights training,new training was introduced to prevent violence of inmates from happening.
(iii) Efforts for prisons open to the public
Information related to treatment of inmates in penal institutions,and the total number of special cases like escape and deaths of inmates including death by disease has been publicized in order to obtain the understanding of the public about the actual situation of penal institutions.
Furthermore,procedures for external communication such as visits to inmates are available on the website of the Ministry of Justice,and penal institutions tours are scheduled to be provided as PR activities.