The head of the Justice Ministry’s Correctional Bureau apologized Tuesday for failing to inform Justice Minister Mayumi Moriyama that “shibo-cho,” or prisoner death records, have been kept at each of the nation’s prisons for the past decade.

During a session of the House of Representatives Judicial Affairs Committee, bureau chief Kenji Nakai said he did not tell Moriyama of the records because he believed it would only increase the workload of prison officials if the existence of the files were to become public knowledge.

Nakai, responding to a question from Yukihiro Yoshida of the Liberal Democratic Party about whether the records were deliberately hidden, said, “It was my personal judgment to avoid imposing such a burden on prison officials” by asking them to cooperate in investigations into inmate deaths.

Nakai admitted that his decision, aimed at avoiding the creation of additional paperwork, was “thoughtless.”

The existence of death records, required under the Prison Law, was made public by an opposition lawmaker during a committee session last week.

Later last week, Moriyama, who said she had not known such records were kept, released paperwork on the deaths of 260 inmates between 1993 and 2001 at Fuchu Prison in western Tokyo, Yokosuka Prison in Kanagawa Prefecture, Nagoya Prison and Osaka Prison.

Nakai said Tuesday the records show that 78 postmortem examinations were conducted on inmates who died of unknown causes, with full autopsies conducted in eight of the cases.

No indication of violence or other criminal acts were found in 70 of the 260 deaths, he added.

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