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3 Desirable preventive measures against repeat offenses(1) Importance of measures for first-time/young offenders
Although the importance of measures for first-time/young offenders was pointed out in the 2007 edition of the White Paper on Crime, it needs to be noted here once again.
For example, the reimprisonment rate within five years after release tended to increase with the number of imprisonments and the difference between first-time inmates and second-time inmates was remarkable (See Fig. 7-2-3-7). This means that reformation/rehabilitation is more difficult after repeat offenses, thus indicating the necessity and importance of enhancing measures to prevent repeat offenses at an early stage. In addition, examining the percent distribution of inmates by history of protective measures as juveniles revealed the proportion of inmates with a history of protective measures to be remarkably high among those aged 20 to 29 and also high among reimprisoned inmates when compared to first-time inmates, regardless of age. Over 20% of those aged 50 or older had histories of protective measures (See Fig. 7-2-5-8). This indicates that quite a few offenders who had committed delinquencies as juveniles subsequently failed to rehabilitate themselves, even after receiving protective measures, and repeated offenses, and that they tend to repeat offenses even at an older age.
In addition, first-time and young offenders still have a chance to reform/rehabilitate themselves as they are still sufficiently flexible and have a wider range of employment opportunities. This makes it important to use the early stage as the best opportunity to nip tendencies to repeat offenses in the bud and provide guidance/assistance as necessary. In order not to miss this opportunity, however, it is important to make efforts in the steady clearance of offenses / delinquencies, and to provide appropriate treatment after clarifying the motives and background, etc. as much as possible and accurately identifying the behavioral tendencies and attitudes of offenders and the risk of repeat offenses of them.
(2) Utilization of suspension of execution of the sentence with probation
According to the research on offenders granted suspension of execution of the sentence, about 9% of the research subjects who were granted suspension of execution of the sentence for theft or Stimulants Control Act violations at the first trial were placed under probation for theft (See Fig. 7-3-1-2-1) and about 7% placed under probation for Stimulants Control Act violations (See Fig. 7-3-1-3-1). In other words, most of them were granted suspension of execution of the sentence without probation. However, about 1/3 of them then repeated offenses within four years (See Fig. 7-3-1-2-21 and Fig. 7-3-1-3-15).
Placing offenders under probation, after determining more accurately the risk of repeat offenses of them, could be an effective measure in the prevention of repeat offenses.
According to the research on offenders granted suspension of execution of the sentence, although probation is granted to persons whose rehabilitation conditions (such as their family environment and living situation, etc.) are poor and have a relatively high risk of repeat offenses from the beginning, the repeat offense rate for theft was slightly lower among those placed under probation when compared to those who were not (See Fig. 7-3-1-2-21). In addition, and again for theft, of persons “living alone (without fixed residence/homeless),” “unemployed,” and “without pledged supervision” — those who are considered to have a high risk of repeat offenses — the repeat offense rate was lower for those placed under probation than for those who were not (See the comments of the same figure). Detailed analysis was not possible for Stimulants Control Act violations because the number of persons placed under probation was statistically small, but the repeat offense rate of those placed under probation was only slightly higher than those who were not (See Fig. 7-3-1-3-15). This can be considered proof of the effectiveness of probation in reformation/rehabilitation.
Whether an offender is placed under probation or not is determined after taking into consideration a range of conditions and in particular the risk of repeat offenses in the future, which could be quite difficult to determine. However, there still remains room for more appropriate determinations to be taken in trial actions, taking the various conditions that may affect the risk of repeat offenses into account as far as possible, in addition to taking into consideration the effect of employment status, residential status, and the existence of the pledged supervision, etc. as analyzed in Subsection 2 with regard to the risk of repeat offenses.
In particular, participation in a stimulants offender treatment program that includes quick drug screen testing may now be obligated as a special condition for probation when placed under probation for a Stimulants Control Act violation (See (3) of Subsection 1, Section 1, Chapter 4). The expectation is that this would further improve the effectiveness of probation. It is also thought that this might be quite effective in preventing repeat offenses of this type: anyone that was granted suspension of execution of the sentence for the first time could be obliged to participate in the program at an early stage, and thus be provided with continued support in their own efforts to stop using stimulants.
(3) Enhancement of individualized treatment focusing on the problems of offenders
In the facilitation of repeat offense prevention, it is important to implement treatment that corrects offenders’ problems according to the characteristics of the respective inmate/probationer/parolee in each stage of their correction and rehabilitation.
As described in (1) c. of Subsection 2 above, although financial instability was the most significant repeat offense factor among those imprisoned for theft, quite a few had motives/backgrounds other than poverty, such as in need of amusement expenses, to save money, stress relief, or habitual theft (See Fig. 7-3-2-2-9). In addition, some relatively older males had alcohol problems (See the same figure). It is important to provide repeat theft offenders with guidance in raising their motivation to be reformed/rehabilitated and guidance in correcting any problems with alcohol dependence, etc., in accordance with their respective problems.
The research on offenders granted suspension of execution of the sentence revealed the repeat offense rate of those who had taken affirmative compensation action to be remarkably low when compared with those who had not (See Fig. 7-3-1-2-18). The repeat offense rate was also low, even if they had taken the affirmative compensation action in the absence of pledged supervision (See Fig. 7-3-1-2-19). In addition, the rate was remarkably low when victim condonation was granted (See Fig. 7-3-1-2-20). This is probably due to the fact that those who have made the effort to compensate victims and obtain their condonation are likely to be more aware of their own responsibility and subsequently more strongly motivated to reform/rehabilitate themselves. They are considered more likely to be accepted back into society and capable of obtaining the assistance of the people around them in being reintegrated into society.
Implementation of “education from the victims’ point of view” and a “atonement guidance program” in correction and rehabilitation treatment is considered effective in preventing repeat offenses. It is also important to provide appropriate guidance/supervision and assistance to help offenders make concrete compensation plans for victims and to carry out that compensation, etc.
b. Stimulants Control Act violations
As described in (2) b. of Subsection 2 above, the severity of the psychological dependence of an offender is the most significant repeat offense factor in Stimulants Control Act violations. The key to prevention of repeat offenses thus lies in overcoming the temptation to indulge in stimulants. Enhancing guidance for overcoming drug addiction will be of the utmost importance in the course of special guidance for reform for inmates in penal institutions and in stimulants offender treatment programs for probationers/parolees.
In addition, as described in (2) d. of Subsection 2 above, it appears that relationships with friends/acquaintances can be a rather significant repeat offense factor in Stimulants Control Act violations. The provision of guidance in improving relationships with friends/acquaintances is therefore considered important in their treatment. The research on offenders granted suspension of execution of the sentence revealed the repeat offense rate of anyone associated with Boryokudan, etc. (refers to regular members, quasi-members, or affiliates of Boryokudan, etc.) to be high, as about 40% among research subjects repeated Stimulants Control Act violations within four years (See Fig. 7-3-1-3-14). Guidance on breaking away from Boryokudan for inmates is thus important as a repeat offense prevention measure for Stimulants Control Act violations. In addition, those who are not subject to that type of guidance may still require guidance on breaking off a relationship with someone else associated with Boryokudan, etc., including at the rehabilitation stage in the community.
(4) Enhancement of support in community-based treatment, etc.
a. Employment support
It is clear that establishing the foundations for livelihood in financial terms is a prerequisite for reformation/rehabilitation. As described in (1) c. of Subsection 2 above, it has been demonstrated that instability in employment status has been a risk factor in repeat offenses. As described in (2) e. of Subsection 2 above, as for Stimulants Control Act violations as well, employment status can also be a risk factor in repeat offenses, although it is not very significant (this is probably due to the fact that severity of the dependence on stimulants is a significant repeat offense factor in Stimulants Control Act violations). Volunteer probation officers also understand that employment leads to mental stability and thus contributes to an offender’s reformation/rehabilitation (See (2) a. of Subsection 2, Section 3, Chapter 3). Being employed and living a stable life is a prerequisite for reformation/rehabilitation, even with Stimulants Control Act violations and other offenses in which financial issues are not the motive.
For this reason, inmates and probationers/parolees, etc. have consistently been provided with guidance on employment. Inmates are helped to acquire useful knowledge and skills for employment through work experience. The employment rate of probationers/parolees proved to be higher when they had completed their probation/parole supervision than at the time of commencement (See Fig. 7-2-4-2; this also indicates that probation/parole supervision has proved effective in preventing repeat offenses). However, there still remain various obstacles to offenders being employed and reintegrated into society, and thus measures to support their employment are still necessary. Enhancement of comprehensive employment support measures implemented in cooperation between the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare is therefore considered to be extremely important in preventing repeat offenses. Considering the recent severe economic climate, however, further measures will need to be taken in areas such as increasing the number of cooperative employers by obtaining the understanding of wider society on the need for supporting the reintegration of offenders into society.
b. Support for persons who require welfare support
Quite a few inmates, etc. face difficulty in becoming self-sufficient due to their advanced age or a mental/physical disability. The provision of support enabling them to receive the services they require, including admission to welfare facilities, is therefore important in facilitating their smooth reintegration into society. Measures to support individuals requiring welfare support have thus been implemented in cooperation between the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare. However, enhancement of these measures is an issue for the future.
c. Expansion of halfway houses, etc.
Securing a stable residence is the basis of a stable life. Some offenders, however, face the situation where they will not be accepted by their families, etc. Halfway houses that can accept any such person therefore play an extremely important role in preventing repeat offenses. At present about 1/4 of parolees live in halfway houses when released, with quite a large number of probationers also being accepted by halfway houses (See Fig. 7-2-4-3).
However, the current capacity of halfway houses is inadequate and it is expected that it will be expanded. There are also quite a few persons whom private halfway houses still have difficulty in accepting. Steady operation of the National Centers for Offender Rehabilitation is therefore also an important issue in facilitating the reformation/rehabilitation and independence of any such person.
(5) Collaboration between institutional treatment and community-based treatment
The reimprisonment rate within five years was about 30% among parolees (See Fig. 7-2-3-6). More appropriate determination of the risk of repeat offenses is thus important in judging whether or not to release inmates on parole to prevent repeat offenses. Further enhancement of parole supervision is also considered important. However, the parole period is relatively short, six months or less, for 70% of parolees (See Fig. 2-5-2-3). This indicates the difficulty of providing sufficient supervision and guidance/assistance for reformation/rehabilitation during the parole period due to the limited time available. The risk of repeat offenses varies with the individual parolee. It would be appropriate to release anyone with a low risk of repeat offenses on parole early and thus facilitate their reformation/rehabilitation and reintegration into society through community-based treatment under parole supervision. It may also be worth considering allowing other types of parolees to be provided with community-based treatment under longer-term parole supervision.
At present the Legislative Council is conducting research and deliberating on a system for use in enabling a court rendering a judgment of imprisonment with or without work to partially suspend execution of the sentence and, if necessary, impose probation during the suspended period. This will make it possible to suspend the execution of the remaining portion of the sentence after the completion of a certain term of imprisonment with or without work and implement probation/parole supervision during the suspended period (See (1) b. of Subsection 2, Section 2, Chapter 4). This system aims at collaborating institutional treatment and community-based treatment more appropriately and thus facilitating the reformation / rehabilitation / repeat offense prevention of offenders. The consequences of those deliberations will be worthy of attention.
(6) Evaluation of effectiveness of preventive measures against repeat offenses
Over recent years new systems and measures for preventing repeat offenses have been implemented, including special guidance for reform for inmates in penal institutions, specialized treatment programs for probationers/parolees, comprehensive employment support measures, and operation of the National Centers for Offender Rehabilitation (See Chapter 4). All these various measures are being used in preventing repeat offenses. It is essential that investigations/discussions continue to take place toward enhancing and improving the efficacy of these systems by evaluating their effectiveness and then further making necessary improvements.