More than one-third of Japan’s prison population has been assaulted, intimidated or bullied by prison guards, the Justice Ministry’s first extensive nationwide survey of inmates showed Monday.
The ministry sent questionnaires to 2,562 people — prisoners doing time at three prisons as of July 4 and all inmates who were released between June 28 and July 4.
The survey results were submitted Monday to the Correctional Policy Reform Committee, an advisory panel. The committee, set up following two cases of fatal abuse of inmates at Nagoya Prison over the past two years, will propose reforms to human rights-related conditions, medical services and overall correctional programs at the nation’s prisons by the end of this year.
Some 8.6 percent of prisoners said they had been treated violently by guards, 5.5 percent had suffered verbal intimidation and 12.7 percent had been bullied.
The survey cited as examples of violent assaults treatment ranging from slapping, punching or kicking to the punitive use of a controversial leather restraining device that often leaves inmates with lasting injuries.
According to the survey, intimidation involved threats to throw prisoners in solitary confinement or take away their eligibility for parole, while bullying typically involved verbal abuse. About 27 percent of inmates said they had been assaulted, intimidated or bullied by fellow prisoners, the survey says.
Meanwhile, 7.6 percent of the 511 prison guards polled by the ministry admitted to assaulting, intimidating or bullying prisoners. More than 10 percent also said they had witnessed colleagues mistreating prisoners in such a manner, the survey shows.
Some 42.7 percent of the guards said they had been treated violently or intimidated by prisoners, and 56.8 percent said they had felt the threat of physical danger while on duty, the survey says.
To curb abuses by guards, 64 percent of prisoners suggested the establishment of outside authorities to hear their complaints, while 26 percent called for more severe punishment for guards.
Roughly 48 percent of prisoners said they had been punished by guards, including being thrown in solitary confinement, and 58.5 percent of the punished prisoners said they felt their punishment was excessive or unfair.
Some 69.6 percent of respondents meanwhile complained about the medical services they received. The death records of some 1,600 prisoners over the past decade, which came to light earlier this year, highlighted the poor medical services offered inside prisons.
About 28 percent of respondents said they were dissatisfied with their medical treatment, 20 percent said they were not given the medicine they wanted and 18 percent said it took a long time for them to be allowed to see a doctor.
Asked about the general rules and programs in prisons, 71 percent of prisoners found some rules unbearable, including military-style marching and daily body checks in which they must remove all clothing.
More than 63 percent of respondents complained about prison food, and 48 percent were unhappy about their prison-issue clothing.
More than 72 percent said prison life had given them a precious opportunity or taught them a lesson.
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