A prison in Ehime Prefecture will start housing women to help address a nationwide shortage of facilities for female convicts, a prison official said. When it opens in November it will be the first such facility in Shikoku.

Last month, after three months of renovations that cost ¥160 million, the prison in the city of Saijo was ready to accommodate 83 inmates in a new women-only section.

A shortage of facilities for female prisoners has led to overcrowding. As of the end of March, there were 3,440 female convicts spread across seven prisons nationwide designed to house just 3,342, said Hidehito Nakahira, an official in charge of general affairs at Matsuyama Prison, which oversees the Saijo branch.

The Saijo facility’s new women-only zone features pink walls, modern Western-style toilets (instead of Japanese squat ones) and a nursery room, where inmates can care for their babies up to the age of 1. Most of the 37 guards at the prison will also be women, Nakahira said Monday.

Previously, female convicts had to be shipped across the Inland Sea to Wakayama Prefecture, making it harder for most family members to visit.

“We believe (the female-friendly features) will help keep the inmates more emotionally stable, which will in turn go a long way toward helping to speed up their rehabilitation,” said Nakahira.

“True, they come here for doing something wrong, but that doesn’t mean we can ignore their basic human rights,” he said.

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