ANOTHER VIOLENT CONFINEMENT

Man who killed as child back in court

by Yumi Wijers-Hasegawa

A man who as a youth was convicted and served time for his role in a slaying that shocked the nation pleaded guilty Wednesday to confining and wounding a male acquaintance in May.

He denied, however, that he had terrorized his victim by claiming he had murdered someone on a previous occasion and knew how to beat the rap.

During his first trial session at the Tokyo District Court, 33-year-old Jo Kamisaku, described by prosecutors as a gangster, said, “It’s true that I beat him, but the part (in the prosecutors’ statement) about what I said (about having killed someone) is not true.”

In July 1991, the Tokyo High Court convicted Kamisaku — a surname he took upon his adoption by a supporter after his release — and three other juveniles of the November 1988 abduction, confinement, rape and beating death of a high school girl from Misato, Saitama Prefecture.

The crime, in which the girl was held captive at the home of one of the youths for 41 days, stunned the nation. The wounded girl had more than once pleaded with the parents living in the house for help, but they did nothing, according to media reports.

After the youths killed her, they placed her corpse in an oil drum, filled it with concrete and dumped it on reclaimed land in Tokyo’s Koto Ward.

Kamisaku, who was 17 at the time, served eight years and one month at a juvenile prison and a regular prison before being released in August 1999.

In his latest trial, prosecutors alleged that Kamisaku picked a fight with Takatoshi Isono, a 27-year-old acquaintance, on May 19, beat him, shoved him into the trunk of his car and drove him to a bar in Misato owned by his mother, where he beat the victim for another four hours.

Kamisaku had believed that a woman he was attracted to had taken a fancy to Isono, the prosecutors said.

They added that after his release from prison, Kamisaku briefly worked at a computer firm before joining the underworld.

Prior to the May attack, he had harassed Isono on various occasions, at one point saying he knew exactly how to fool police and prosecutors because he had been tried for murder earlier, the prosecutors alleged.

Experts noted how the 1988 slaying and the latest crime were both cases of confinement and violence at locations linked to the offender. They wondered why eight years behind bars had failed to rehabilitate the defendant.

But Kamisaku’s case is not uncommon.

According to Tsuyoshi Kobayashi, professor of clinical delinquency at the graduate school of Mukogawa Women’s University in Hyogo Prefecture, 20 percent of youths who spend time at reformatories on average become repeat offenders, even 30 percent of those who stayed at some institutions.

Kobayashi believes the rate for inmates at juvenile prisons must be higher, as the youths at these facilities have been convicted of more serious crimes than the minor offenses that merit a stint in a reformatory.

In the 1988 case, Kamisaku, who was branded the main accomplice, was given an indeterminate sentence of between five and 10 years.

He served a combined term at a juvenile prison and a regular prison apparently because he turned 26, the maximum age for individuals to be held at a juvenile prison, in the course of serving his term.

Takeshi Tsuchimoto, a law professor at Teikyo University, said that while authorities tend to be lenient toward youth offenders in the hope that they will mend their ways, in Kamisaku’s case the punishment was too light.

“The (first) crime he committed was so serious that he probably would have been sentenced to death if he had been an adult,” Tsuchimoto said. “The least the court could have done was to give him the maximum sentence possible — 15 years — to make him realize (the gravity of) his deeds.”

He also noted the eight years Kamisaku spent behind bars was relatively long, given that the sentence was for a term of between five and 10 years.

“His conduct in prison was apparently not that good,” he said.

Kobayashi of Mukogawa Women’s University said, however, that the problem cannot be solved by simply keeping people who commit violent crimes in their youth away from society for a longer period of time.

Programs at detention facilities need to be revised because they are not adequately correcting troubled juveniles, he said.

“The reason (many of) these youths are not rehabilitated is the programs don’t sufficiently delve into their hearts to see why they committed their crimes. They are only geared at forcing them to severely repent their actions,” Kobayashi said.

“Such treatment prompts youths to just bide their time until their release.”