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SAPPORO — Inmates at Abashiri Prison in Hokkaido are producing garbage cages that are winning strong popularity from resident associations and other groups because they save space and deter crows.

“We can contribute to society by making the towns cleaner,” said Fumihiko Fujikawa, chief warden of the facility, which has gained fame due to the “Abashiri Prison” movie series.

The light, steel-framed cages with nylon netting are 115 cm wide, 90 cm deep and 90 cm high, and can hold about 20 garbage bags each containing 45 liters of waste. When not used, the cages can be folded up as small as a tatami mat and stowed out of the way.

The top part of the cages, which come in green or yellow, is a hinged lid that is easily secured, and the mesh is tight to keep crows, cats and mice out.

In 2007, Abashiri Prison expanded because of a shortage of prisons nationwide, and the number of inmates doubled from 759 to 1,560. But orders for confectionary boxes and other inmate labor have been decreasing due to the recession.

The prison then shifted its attention to trash cages developed by City Kankyo Co., a local industrial waste disposal firm.

“Assembling the cages is easy and safe and perfectly suited to prison labor,” Fujikawa said.

Inmates began making garbage cages ordered by the company last August.

At Abashiri Prison, 50 trash cages are made every month. They are priced in the ¥30,000 range, one-fifth to one-sixth cheaper than conventional trash bins. Because of their price and convenience, the cities of Sapporo and Hakodate and other municipalities are extending subsidies so people will buy the cages.

In and around Sapporo alone, garbage cages have been set up at about 230 locations. Resident associations and buildings in Tokyo, Chiba and other prefectures in the Kanto region have also adopted the cages.

Chikako Sato, 55, who is in charge of a resident association’s garbage cage in Toyohira Ward, Sapporo, said: “I couldn’t walk on the streets before because crows were picking through the garbage. It was dirty and terrifying, but after the cage was introduced, there has been no problems.”

According to City Kankyo, if crows find it difficult to pick through garbage, they will give it a miss. “In many cities, crow damage has become a problem. I’m pleased to be able to give inmates an opportunity to serve society,” City Kankyo President Haruhiko Masada said.

Although Abashiri Prison is widely considered a place for hardened criminals due to the popular movie series, it is basically a facility for short-term inmates.

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