A total of 80 postmortem exams have been conducted over the past decade on prison inmates who died of unknown causes, Justice Minister Mayumi Moriyama said Friday.
According to death records kept at each prison, as required under the Prison Law, 260 inmates died between 1993 and 2002 at Fuchu Prison, in western Tokyo; Yokosuka Prison, in Kanagawa Prefecture; and the Nagoya and Osaka prisons.
Autopsies were conducted in eight of the cases, including two inmates at Nagoya Prison who were later found to have been killed by guards.
The ministry will re-examine all 80 cases in which inmates died of unnatural causes, Moriyama told a news conference. She also criticized corrections bureau officials for not telling her about the existence of the records.
The Justice Ministry separately explained that the majority of postmortem examinations revealed that the inmates died from illness.
The records were made public Thursday by an opposition lawmaker on the Lower House judicial affairs committee. Citing a different postmortem exam figure, the lawmaker claimed that about 100 inmates died of unnatural causes over the past decade.
The committee has asked the Justice Ministry for more information, including the convicts’ medical records. The committee believes that in addition to the eight cases in which further exams were conducted, there could be many more suspicious deaths.
Death records are kept at each correctional facility and date back 10 years.
Whenever a convict dies, a coroner or witness must document the circumstances of the death.
The records show that 93 people died in Fuchu Prison and 120 died in Nagoya Prison in the past decade. By contrast, one person died in Yokosuka Prison in the same period, while 46 died at Osaka Prison during the eight-year period up to 2002.
Among the suspicious cases is the death of a Fuchu Prison inmate in 1997. He had been given an injection to calm him down. Another convict at the same prison died the same year after being sent to the infirmary with a bad back.
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