NAGOYA – Guards at Nagoya Prison used leather restraining devices with handcuffs to subdue inmates on a routine basis, according to sources close to prosecutors investigating the May death a 49-year-old male inmate who had been placed in such a restraint.
An investigator at the Nagoya District Prosecutor’s Office said one Nagoya Prison guard has testified that the restraining devices, which were supposed to be employed to keep prisoners from committing suicide or hurting themselves or others — are routinely used to subdue inmates.
Prosecutors suspect the increased use of the leather device led to the death of the prisoner in May and also caused serious injuries to a 30-year-old prisoner in September.
Meanwhile, sources close to the case said that suspicions have arisen that in December 2000, one inmate was forced to eat his meals and go to the toilet while restrained by the devices, which runs against Justice Ministry instructions on their use. The ministry instructs prison guards to remove the manacles during meals and trips to the toilet in principle.
According to the sources, this inmate, who has since been released, was forced to wear the leather device for one full day after being involved in a fight.
On Thursday, the ministry announced that Nagoya Prison Warden Chishu Sakurai will be removed from his post effective Monday in light of the scandal and replaced by Atsushi Nakayama, currently a councilor in the ministry’s secretariat. Sakurai will be transferred to the Nagoya Regional Correction Headquarters along with two other senior prison officials to ensure that they can fully cooperate with ongoing investigations, according to ministry officials.
Statistics show Nagoya Prison guards have used the restraining devices 148 times to subdue prisoners kept in solitary cells — a very high figure when compared with other penitentiaries nationwide.
One officer in Nagoya has told investigators that using leather handcuffs to restrain prisoners has been a long-held practice at Nagoya Prison and “no one thought it was a problem.”
The officer, whose name was not provided, witnessed the death of the inmate in May. He said Wednesday that handcuffing was “something we do matter-of-factly” but added that he was shocked by the inmate’s death while in the restraints.
A parolee who served time in Nagoya Prison has testified that lamps that show prisoners are locked up in solitary cells were on most of the time when he was inside.
“Almost every day, the lamps were on,” the former inmate said.
Prosecutors on Wednesday charged five Nagoya Prison guards with inflicting injuries on the 30-year-old prisoner in September.
The five locked the 30-year-old man in a restraining device for about an hour and half on Sept. 25 even though there was no possibility that he would turn violent, according to the indictment.
The guards allegedly cinched the belt part of the device so tight around the man’s stomach that he suffered internal bleeding that required hospitalization.
Two of the five guards — Akihiko Maeda, 40, and Hiroki Ozawa, 27 — have also been accused of involvement in the death of the prisoner in May.
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