1 Presentation of cases

(1) Male in his 20s who was imprisoned for repeatedly committing so called “middle aged man hunting” for fun with a light heart while being a university student

[Details of the case]

He was overprotected by his parents and they used to buy him whatever he wanted. After entering university he drove an expensive car which his parents bought him and spent his life mainly enjoying himself.

In this case he, who was a university student, repeatedly robbed middle aged men of money on the street at midnight with his friends, and was thereby sentenced to imprisonment for three years and six months without suspension of execution of the sentence for robbery causing injury and theft.

[Status at the penal institution]

He was rather spoiled and tended to act according to his own desires without much thought for the future. Through the disciplined group life in the penal institution, he came to withhold hastiness and learned to work in a patient and well-planned manner through his prison work. In addition, after the arrest he grew aware of the pain and fear he had caused his victims and sent letters of apology to them. He also started to think deeply about how he could compensate his victims, etc. for his offenses through the guidance he received at the penal institutions. Furthermore, he began to appreciate the value of his family once again after meeting with his parents and brothers who visited him at the institution and regretted that his family suffered so much from his commission of the offenses.

[Progress in parole supervision]

He was granted parole to live with his parents after release, upon which his parole supervision commenced. The parole supervision involved guidance mainly on employment and relationships with friends/acquaintances. He fully regretted his past attitude before being released, and followed the guidance provided by the probation officer and volunteer probation officer in an ideal manner right from the start. He engaged in job seeking activities soon after being released and diligently worked as a part-time worker. During his parole supervision period no problem was observed in his relationships with friends/acquaintances and how he spent his spare time and he maintained a good and stable attitude. He visited the volunteer probation officer twice a month on the promised date/time and reported his living situation. There, he was provided with guidance and advice on employment, etc.

The volunteer probation officer evaluated him as “making strenuous efforts toward being reintegrated back into society and having an extremely serious and earnest attitude.”

After completion of his parole supervision he was employed as a regular worker at a construction company utilizing a qualification for operating construction machinery which he gained in the penal institution. He spent a sound life getting married and having a child. He was granted a pardon (restoration of rights) a few years after being released on parole.

(2) Male in his 40s who was imprisoned for committing robbery while homeless

[Details of the case]

He had been bullied immediately after being admitted to an elementary school due to his physical and slight intellectual disability, and hence mostly did not attend school until graduating from a junior high school. His mother left the family in his infancy and his father died while he was in junior high school. He was therefore admitted to a children's home. After graduating from a junior high school he left the children's home and had a job live-in. In addition to his unfortunate family environment he had been bullied since at elementary school and therefore had a strong distrust of others. Also he was timid by nature and had little confidence in himself. This then resulted in him having difficulties establishing good relationships at workplaces and thus he frequently changed jobs. He was persistently bullied by colleagues at a factory where he was employed in his mid-40s and impulsively left the factory and became homeless out of despair. He spent all his money and therefore robbed a store. He was sentenced to imprisonment for three years without suspension of execution of the sentence.

[Status at the penal institution]

He had a strong distrust of others and initially found it hard to fit in with the group life at the penal institution. He persisted with his own opinions with the living guidance provided to the group and had a stubborn attitude against the advices and opinions of the officials of the penal institution and the other inmates. However, thanks to the official's sincere guidance and advices, he gradually opened up and started to listen to other's opinions and advices. Accordingly, his distrust of others gradually faded and he became capable of living collaboratively with other inmates, and started to display a positive attitude.

[Progress in parole supervision]

He was granted parole to live in a halfway house as he had no relatives to rely on. His parole supervision commenced with treatment policies that included early employment and spending a sound life, etc. He obediently followed the guidance/advices provided by the probation officer and halfway house officials. He recognized quickly that his primary issue is to find a job, and made the effort to find a job by visiting Hello Work (government employment office) every day soon after being released. He repeatedly failed to gain a job, although he was sometimes invited to interviews, but did not give up and was eventually employed at a factory in the city after the continued job seeking activities for approximately two months. In the meantime he obtained a physical disability certificate as advised by the halfway house officials. After being employed at the factory he never missed a day of work and was very diligent. This probably led him to gradually gaining more confidence, thus enabling him to maintain peaceful relationships with the officials and other residents of the halfway house. He completed his term of parole supervision with good achievements.

(3) Male in his 50s who was imprisoned for repeatedly committing arson in order to vent his frustration from the financial difficulties caused by an alcohol and gambling addiction

[Details of the case]

He had a history of delinquency for theft as a juvenile. After becoming an adult he was consistently employed, mainly in construction work, got married and had a child, and was leading a normal social life. However, he then divorced his wife because of her unfaithfulness and started living alone. He also had difficulty maintaining a good relationship with others at the workplace and started drinking and gambling. In order to gain money for drinking and gambling, he borrowed money from consumer credit companies. His debt from multiple consumer credit companies accumulated to where he could not pay back, and he was unable to find a way out and fell into despair. He repeatedly committed arson of apartment buildings, etc. while drinking alcohol to vent his frustration. He was sentenced to imprisonment for seven years without suspension of execution of the sentence for arson of inhabited buildings and arson of uninhabited buildings.

[Status at the penal institution]

At the penal institution he received vocational training and learned how to make tatami and to paint. He regained confidence in his capacity to have a vocational life after the release. Also, gradually, he learned to work hard in patience even under a difficult situation without attempting to escape. In addition, the living guidance enabled him to look back on his life and problematic behavior at the time of the offense and realize that drinking and gambling to vent his frustration would not solve anything. That led him to think about having a life not dependent on drinking or gambling. At the commencement of imprisonment he did not have anyone to rely on. But during his imprisonment a relative offered to be his guarantor thinking “humans are weak. I am not perfect either. If he pledges to rehabilitate himself in the future I am willing to provide him with as much support as possible.” and actively visited and met with him. This resulted in further raising his motivation to rehabilitate himself.

[Progress in parole supervision]

He was granted parole with the above mentioned relative as the guarantor. His parole supervision commenced with treatment policies that included continued abstention from alcohol and maintaining a work-oriented sound life. Soon after being released he gained employment in the construction industry with assistance provided by his guarantor and worked hard and enthusiastically. He was fully aware of the necessity of abstaining from alcohol and joined a giving-up alcohol society, as advised by the probation officer. He participated in its regular meetings and continued to abstain from drinking alcohol.

Furthermore, he was advised by his guarantor that freeing himself from debt would be necessary in not repeating any offenses and therefore started to adjust his debt level with the assistance from the lawyer introduced by his guarantor. In addition, since he started to consider during his imprisonment period that he must compensate for the victims' damages, upon consultation with a lawyer, he reached out-of-court settlements with the victims.

Because he was able to solve his own problems stemmed from his past, he was further motivated to rehabilitate himself. He continued to live a work-oriented sound life, gradually improved his relationship with his relatives other than his guarantor, and finally regained a relationship with his child who had long since drifted apart. He completed his term of parole supervision with good achievements.

Just before completing his term of parole supervision he expressed his gratitude to the people around him to his probation officer by saying “I was able spend a happy New Year holiday with my relatives, and remembered the joy of the New Year, which I had forgotten. I owe the volunteer probation officer and others a lot.”

(4) Male in his 30s who was sentenced to life imprisonment for homicide against a relative for the purpose of obtaining insurance money and imprisoned

[Details of the case]

After graduating from a junior high school he was employed as a factory worker. After getting married he started his own business of running a small local factory with the aid of his wife's parents. Within a few years, however, his factory was caught up in a business slump and he accumulated a large debt. He then conspired with a friend and killed a relative for the purpose of obtaining insurance money. He was sentenced to life imprisonment for homicide.

[Status at the penal institution]

During the course of investigation after being arrested and the trial he looked back on his offense and was shocked to see the injustice of it, and subsequently felt deep remorse.

During his imprisonment he constantly prayed for the victim by reciting a sutra every morning and evening, and being active in taking religious instruction. In addition, he looked back on his life at the time of the offense through the living guidance provided and thus understood that his factory was caught up in a business slump through trying to expand his business more than he was capable of because of his own overconfidence and wish to be more conspicuous. He also recognized his egocentric thinking again which led him to then impassively killing a relative and started to think strongly that he must become the type of person that lives for others rather than only himself. This determination was then evident in his attitude to imprisonment as he obediently accepted guidance and advice from the penal institution officials and devotedly made an effort to cooperate with the other inmates in prison work and other activities. At a parole examination interview he stated that he “learned the dignity of devoting one's life to others.”

[Progress in parole supervision]

After being imprisoned for approximately 17 years he was granted parole in his 50s to return to a halfway house as he had no relatives who could accept him. His parole supervision commenced with treatment policies that initially focused on guidance on job-seeking activities. In addition, his ability to adapt to society was of concern due to his long imprisonment and therefore interim treatment (social adaptation training) was provided to him at the halfway house for one month. He was accompanied by halfway house officials to visit Hello Work and city halls, etc. and learned how to carry out the procedures required in gaining employment. He also participated in group work (living ability training in raising people's social adaptation capabilities through role playing, etc.) at the halfway house in improving his ability to cooperate with others. The guidance was successful and he was then employed at a factory during his interim treatment. Initially he commuted from the halfway house but then moved to a dormitory run by the workplace.

However, the chemicals used at the factory did not physically agree with him and he became physically unsound. He was therefore transferred to another company through introduction made by a volunteer probation officer. His work attitude throughout the trial period was recognized to be very good and he became a regular worker that worked diligently. As he stated “I want to do whatever I can do” he also actively engaged in doing odd jobs, including environmental maintenance at the workplace, in addition to his normal work, and tried to fit in to the company. In addition, his employer was aware of his situation and thus continued to employ him even after he had reached retirement age because he was not eligible to receive a pension benefit, and thus continuing to be employed was very important to him.

He often thanked the volunteer probation officer by saying “I owe you so much” and expressed his deep gratitude to the volunteer probation officer who had sincerely supported his rehabilitation throughout his daily life, including employment.

He maintained a good relationship with his colleagues at the workplace and people in the neighborhood by playing go and learning tanka together, and by handing out vegetables that he had grown to his neighbors. In addition, he never forget to comfort the spirit of his victim as he prayed for him in his room every day and continuously sent money to the family temple of the victim.

He lived a work-oriented sound life for 20 years in this way before suddenly dying, upon which his parole supervision terminated.

[Volunteer probation officer interviews]

Of the factors that significantly affected his social reintegration the volunteer probation officer mentioned “The past is the past and what is important is what is happening now. Remaining in steady employment at the company gave him stability as well as ‘a sense of security from being accepted’ and ‘self-confidence as he was being relied on by others.’ I find the ‘environment’ extremely important to anyone willing to be rehabilitated” and “Finding a good company (employer) to be of the utmost importance. This ideal case involved a positive cycle created through him appreciating the company and therefore working hard to repay the kindness he had received, thereby gaining the trust of the company, which in turn led to continued employment.”

He was employed through an introduction made by the volunteer probation officer. In regard to this the volunteer probation officer stated that “Being employed is essential in obtaining a means of living, but he was unable to find a job in a place where he had never lived before. I therefore selected a workplace that suited him from some companies that were managed by some of my acquaintances. After privately explaining his circumstances to the employer he was then accepted as an employee. I then subsequently, and often, consulted the employer on how he was doing at work. I also assisted him in continuing his employment by telling him how highly the employer valued his work attitude.”

In addition, he actively maintained a good relationship with his colleagues at work and acquaintances in the neighborhood, etc. In regard to this the volunteer probation officer looked back and had this to say, “He must have been thinking that he needed to be around people that trusted him not to make the same mistake again and to make the effort to learn and create a good environment for himself as he had grown aware of his own weaknesses. It was very impressive to see him actively questioning his colleagues at work, along with the other people in his neighborhood, and establishing such good relationships with them.”