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 White paper on crime 2009 Part7/Chapter1 

PART 7  Enhancement of Measures to Prevent Repeat Offenses

Chapter 1  Introduction

  The number of cases reported for non-traffic penal code offenses in Japan reached the post World War II high of approximately 2.85 million in 2002. In response to the worsening situation and growing awareness of crime as a serious social problem, a ministerial meeting on countermeasures against crimes established an “Action Program to Create a Crime-Resistant Society” (hereinafter referred to as the “former Action Program”) in December 2003, with the public and the government uniting in an effort to restore public safety. This then resulted in an improvement in the situation as the number of cases reported for non-traffic penal code offenses decreased to 1.82 million over the five years to 2008, halting the increase in crime to a certain extent. This is no cause for optimism, however, as the crime situation over the long term remains less positive than that in the stable postwar period around 1975; community perceptions of public safety have not necessarily been improving either. In addition, social unrest has increased due to the recent global financial crisis, etc. and the concern is growing that this may again lead to a rise in crime. Because of this, the ministerial meeting on countermeasures against crimes launched a successor to the former Action Program in the form of an “Action Program to Create a Crime-Resistant Society 2008” (hereinafter referred to as the “Action Program 2008”) in December 2008, aimed at further decreasing the number of crimes by taking constant but more basic measures against crime, alleviating social unrest over public safety, and restoring genuine public safety within the next five years.
  The Action Program 2008 lists seven priority issues reflecting current trends in crime, the second of which is to “build a society that does not produce offenders.” An important means of realizing such a society, it states, is the institution of measures to ensure that nobody currently being processed in the criminal justice system (inmates of penal institutions, juveniles newly admitted to juvenile training schools, probationers/parolees) becomes a repeat offender (“prevention of repeat offenses by persons released from penal institutions, etc.”). More concretely, the government is to take active measures including work/employment support for those who have been unable to obtain a stable income and community settlement assistance for those requiring welfare support, etc. The measures to prevent repeat offenses set forth in the Action Program 2008 are fundamental long-term measures oriented to the realization of a harmonious society integrating anyone at risk of committing a crime owing to factors such as a weak relationship with society as a healthy member by reaching out to help them through preventing them from becoming isolated and restoring their sense of belonging. In addition, in order to advance these measures in preventing repeat offenses in a consistent manner and to achieve effective outcomes, it will be necessary to acquire knowledge on the realities of repeat offenses and the cause thereof, and regularly discuss effective and appropriate measures according to actual conditions, founded on ongoing research into repeat offenses. The Action Program 2008 also calls for comprehensive analysis of the causes, etc. of offenses and discussion of effective new measures for use in preventing repeat offenses.
  In consideration of this, the Research and Training Institute of the Ministry of Justice has been researching the actual situation concerning repeat offenses and measures to tackle them from various points of view and employing a variety of methods. This issue was addressed the most recently in a featured article entitled “The Circumstances and Attributes of Repeat Offenders and Countermeasures to Recidivism” in the 2007 edition of the White Paper on Crime. The featured article clarified the current significance of measures in preventing repeat offenses by revealing the importance of taking measures against repeat offenses demonstratively, through analysis of criminal records for about 60 years after World War II that showed that crimes committed by repeat offenders with two or more criminal records accounted for a significant proportion of the total number of crimes, with the repeat offence rate within five years also increasing over recent years. By type of offense the possibility of repeat offenses was revealed to be high particularly for theft and also Stimulants Control Act violations, as the rate of first-time offenders to have repeated such offenses was high, the repeat offense period until the second crime was relatively short, and there was a strong tendency for offenders to have repeatedly committed the same crime. In addition, it was pointed out that effective preventive measures against repeat offenses would need to address first-time offenders and young offenders, and forestalling repeat offenses in the most effective and appropriate manner in light of the characteristics of the specific offense at the early stage, before offenders’ criminal tendencies have advanced, and that improvement of their community treatment would be an important issue to discuss in the future.
  Following on from the 2007 edition, the featured article in this edition of the White Paper on Crime again addresses the important and topical question of how to improve measures to prevent repeat offenses, with the aim of providing useful basic data to inform such discussions. The actual situation concerning repeat offenses and the cause were analyzed in detail and in relation with preventive measures against repeat offenses particularly for theft and stimulants offenders whose high tendencies to repeat offenses were noted in the earlier edition of the White Paper on Crime. This part will be constructed as follows.
  First, in Chapter 2, the actual situation concerning repeat offenses/delinquencies recently and trends among repeat offenders will be analyzed based on statistical data revealed by the police, prosecutions, trials, corrections, and rehabilitation. The trends in different types of offense will be also analyzed, mainly for theft and stimulants offenders.
  Next, in Chapter 3, the actual situation concerning repeat offenses by theft and stimulants offenders are outlined from various points of view and by reference to special research conducted by the Research and Training Institute of the Ministry of Justice. Section 1 seeks to identify risk factors, etc. leading to the tendency to repeat offenses by examining details of cases and attributes of offenders using criminal case records of anyone granted suspension of execution of the sentence for the first time. This section then compares and discusses differences between those who have repeated offenses and those who have not since their first suspended execution of the sentence through a follow-up study to determine whether or not they have repeated offenses (final decision of conviction) within a certain time frame. Section 2 typologically analyzes the problems of those who had been imprisoned by examining the motives, living situations, and willingness to be rehabilitated, etc. of first-time and second-time inmates for these offenses based on voluntary responses and admission questionnaires. Section 3 describes the results of interviewing probationers and parolees, etc. and volunteer probation officers who treat the probationers/parolees on factors that lead to their reformation/rehabilitation, the effectiveness of treatment, etc.
  Chapter 4 describes the measures to prevent repeat offenses currently being used within Action Program 2008 and new efforts that are being advanced.
  Finally, Chapter 5 summarizes the actual situation concerning repeat offenses and the prospects for measures to prevent repeat offenses in the future in light of the analysis and discussion in Chapters 2 to 4.