Prisons in Japan

The Penal system of Japan (including prisons) is part of the criminal justice system of Japan. It is intended to resocialize, reform, and rehabilitate offenders. The penal system is operated by the Correction Bureau of the Ministry of Justice.


On confinement, prisoners are first classified according to gender, nationality, type of penalty, length of sentence, degree of criminality, and state of physical and mental health. They are then placed in special programs designed to treat their individual needs.

Vocational and formal education are emphasized, as is instruction in social values. Most convicts engage in labor, for which a small stipend is set aside for use on release. Under a system stressing incentives, prisoners are initially assigned to community cells, then earn better quarters and additional privileges based on their good behavior.


The Correctional Bureau of the Ministry of Justice administers the adult prison system as well as the juvenile correctional system and three women's guidance homes (to rehabilitate prostitutes). The ministry's Rehabilitation Bureau operates the probation and parole systems. Prison personnel are trained at an institute in Tokyo and in branch training institutes in each of the eight regional correctional headquarters under the Correctional Bureau. Professional probation officers study at the Legal Training and Research Institute of the Ministry.

Prison population

In 1990 Japan's prison population stood at somewhat less than 47,000; nearly 7,000 were in short-term detention centers, and the remaining 40,000 were in prisons. Approximately 46 percent were repeat offenders. Japanese recidivism was attributed mainly to the discretionary powers of police, prosecutors, and courts and to the tendency to seek alternative sentences for first offenders. By 2001 The overall prison population rose to 61,242[1] or 48 prisoners per 100,000. By of the end of 2009, the prison population had yet again risen to 75,250, or 59 prisoners per 100,000.[2] One reason for the rise is a large increase in the number of elderly being convicted of crimes, with loneliness being cited as a major factor.[3][4]

Juvenile offenders

Although a few juvenile offenders are handled under the general penal system, most are treated in separate juvenile training schools. More lenient than the penal institutions, these facilities provide correctional education and regular schooling for delinquents under the age of twenty. More adults are in prison than child delinquents, mainly because of the low crime rate.

Aftercare treatment

According to the Ministry of Justice, the government's responsibility for social order does not end with imprisoning an offender, but also extends to aftercare treatment and to noninstitutional treatment to substitute for or supplement prison terms.

A large number of those given suspended sentences are released to the supervision of volunteer officers under the guidance of professional probation officers. Adults are usually placed on probation for a fixed period, and juveniles are placed on probation until they reach the age of twenty.

Use of volunteers

Volunteers are also used in supervising parolees, although professional probation officers generally supervise offenders considered to have a high risk of recidivism. Volunteers hail from all walks of life and handle no more than five cases at one time. They are responsible for overseeing the offenders' conduct to prevent the occurrence of further offenses. Volunteer probation officers also offer guidance and assistance to the ex-convict in assuming a law-abiding place in the community.

Although volunteers are sometimes criticized for being too old compared with their charges (more than 70 percent are retired and are age fifty-five or over) and thus unable to understand the problems their charges faced, most authorities believe that the volunteers are critically important in the nation's criminal justice system.

Claims of inmate rights abuses

Amnesty International has cited Japan for abuse of inmates by guards for infractions of prison rules. This abuse is in the form of beatings, solitary confinement, overcrowding, or "minor solitary confinement" (keiheikin), which forces inmates to be interned in tiny cells kneeling or crossed legged, and restrained with handcuffs for prolonged periods of time.[5]

Penal institutions

Japanese "penal institutions" include prisons for sentenced adults, juvenile detention centers for sentenced juveniles, and detention houses for pre-trial inmates.[6]


Sapporo Correctional Precinct

  • Sapporo Prison 札幌刑務所 - Higashi-ku, Sapporo
    • Sapporo Prison Sapporo Branch 札幌刑務所札幌刑務支所 - Higashi-ku, Sapporo
  • Asahikawa Prison 旭川刑務所 - Asahikawa, Hokkaidō
  • Obihiro Prison 帯広刑務所 - Obihiro, Hokkaidō
    • Obihiro Prison Kushiro Branch 帯広刑務所釧路刑務支所 - Kushiro, Hokkaidō
  • Abashiri Prison 網走刑務所 - Abashiri, Hokkaidō (with 博物館網走監獄 (ja) Abashiri prison museum)
  • Tsukigata Prison 月形刑務所 - Tsukigata, Hokkaidō
  • Hakodate Juvenile Prison 函館少年刑務所 - Hakodate, Hokkaidō

Sendai Correctional Precinct

Tokyo Correctional Precinct

Nagoya Correctional Precinct

Osaka Correctional Precinct

Hiroshima Correctional Precinct

Takamatsu Correctional Precinct

Fukuoka Correctional Precinct

Detention houses

  • Tokyo Detention House
  • Tachikawa Detention House
  • Nagoya Detention House
  • Kyoto Detention House
  • Osaka Detention House
  • Kobe Detention House
  • Hiroshima Detention House
  • Fukuoka Detention House

Medical facilities

Private Finance Initiative

Private Finance Initiative (PFI) prisons are maintained with private management. PFI prisons, which are for sentenced inmates with low criminal tendencies, include:[11]

  • Harima Rehabilitation Program Center (播磨社会復帰促進センター?) - Kakogawa, Hyogo - Houses men
  • Kitsuregawa Rehabilitation Program Center (喜連川社会復帰促進センター?) - Sakura, Tochigi - Houses men
  • Mine Rehabilitation Program Center (美祢社会復帰促進センター?) - Mine, Yamaguchi - Houses men and women
  • Shimane Asahi Rehabilitation Program Center (島根あさひ社会復帰促進センター?) - Hamada, Shimane - Houses men

The logo of the Correction Bureau includes three "C"s. One stands for Challenge, one for Change, and one for Cooperate.[12]


  •  This article incorporates Japan

External links

  • Ministry of Justice
  • Ministry of Justice (Japanese)
  • Correctional Association Foundation (Japanese)
  • Center for Prisoners' Rights (Japanese)
  • Documentary: Japan from inside / Le Japon à double tour
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