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The number of reported cases for non-traffic penal code offenses increased significantly in recent years, registering the record high after WWII in 2002, and the criminal trend deteriorated rapidly. Responding to such worsening criminal trend and intensifying anxiety of the general public over crimes, the government established the "Action Program to Create a Crime-Resistant Society (hereinafter referred to as the "Action Plan")" at the ministerial meeting on countermeasures against crimes in December 2003.
This special article explained the outline of this Action Plan and new moves in various fields related to criminal policy and restoration of public safety. The following form an overview of the major moves.
As the criminal trend deteriorated rapidly and the general public's anxiety over crimes became intensified, local residents became more aware of the necessity of crime prevention and have activated their voluntary crime prevention activities. Many voluntary crime prevention groups were formulated and anticrime patrols and other activities have been actively carried out. Based on the Action Plan, crime prevention measures from the viewpoint of developing a crime-resistant society have been promoted, while strengthening support for related agencies with regard to these activities.
Meanwhile, regarding penalties for crimes, the Penal Code and other acts were revised in response to new trends and the upper limits of statutory penalties for imprisonment with a definite term and penalties pertaining to aggravation or mitigation, which had not been revised since the enforcement of the Penal Code in 1907, were raised for the first time. Revision was also made to newly establish fines for theft and obstructing performance of public duty, etc. Through such revision, a wider range of sentencing and disposition became possible in accordance with criminal trends, etc. Actual changes have recently been observed in sentencing at courts.
Furthermore, efforts have been made for new legislation, etc. with regard to globalization and organization of crimes and measures for juvenile delinquency.
Regarding measures for crime victims, etc., which pose significant problems in criminal policy, the Basic Act on Crime Victims clarifying the basic principles was enforced in April 2005 and the Basic Plan for Crime Victims was established in December 2005 based on the Act. Through such moves, the government has been working to make and implement comprehensive measures for crime victims, etc.
For treatment for offenders, the Act on Treatment of Sentenced Inmates, which fully revises the old Prison Act enforced in 1908, was put into force in May 2006, and it was made clear that the basic principle of institution-based treatment shall be to aim for inmates' rehabilitation and smooth reintegration into society. The idea of correctional treatment was introduced as the central core of treatment for inmates and three types of correctional treatment, i.e. "work," "rehabilitation guidance," and "academic guidance," have come to be implemented. Receiving correctional treatment was specified as one of inmates' legal obligations and the meaning of correctional treatment was clarified legally.
Under this Act, efforts have been made boldly to further enhance and strengthen inmates' treatment.
In the meantime, serious repeat offenses committed by probationers/parolees raised the general public's criticism over current rehabilitation service and its function to prevent repeat offenses. In response to such criticism, the Ministry of Justice established the "Advisory Committee Seeking the Ideal Form of Rehabilitation" in July 2005. The "Recommendations on Reform of the Rehabilitation System," which this Advisory Committee submitted to the Minister of Justice in June 2006, shows the concrete direction to be taken in reforming the overall current rehabilitation system. In accordance with the Recommendations, reform and review of the current community-based treatment has been promoted so as to realize strict probationary supervision.
Furthermore, a kidnap murder case committed by a person who had previously been convicted for sexual offenses caused the general public to strongly request the strengthening of treatment for sex offenders to prevent their repeat offenses. Responding to this, in FY2006, the Ministry of Justice started to implement sex offender treatment programs for sex offenders serving their sentences or under probationary supervision through their correction and rehabilitation processes. These are scientific and systematic programs for preventing repeat offenses that adopt the idea of Cognitive-Behavioral Treatment. It is the first time in Japan that such treatment programs are implemented in an organized manner on a nationwide scale.
In addition to what is mentioned above, various efforts have also been made for purposes such as to promote measures against illegal entry and illegal overstay as measures against crimes by visiting foreign nationals, and employment support measures in collaboration between the Correction Bureau, the Rehabilitation Bureau and the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare so as to help those who once committed offenses or delinquency to reintegrate themselves into society smoothly.
As a move in the field of criminal justice related to criminal policy, there has been progress in reform of the judicial system. Introduction of the Saiban-in system is an extremely important reform in the field of criminal justice, and with the start of the system coming closer, efforts have been made to develop an environment where Saiban-ins can feel willing to participate in trials.