Organizers of a ¥10 million private fund that was introduced in 2005 to support death-row inmates have decided to maintain the fund beyond its original 10-year limit and will seek further contributions.
The fund has depended on money bequeathed by Sachiko Daidoji, an opponent of capital punishment whose son is on death row, and has been used to help condemned prisoners seek retrials while encouraging them to engage in artistic pursuits, such as painting and writing, in their cells by providing awards for excellent work.
The award selection committee includes an art director, literary critic and a well-known novelist.
“We initially planned to use the ¥10 million within 10 years — ¥1 million per year — during which we expected the death penalty to be abolished in Japan,” said Masakuni Ota, a senior member of the body that manages the Daidoji Fund. “But we cannot foresee abolition at present, and it has become more and more significant for death-row inmates to contribute their works to us.”
Such works have been displayed in Tokyo where opponents of capital punishment have held public meetings around Oct. 10 every year, the World Day against the Death Penalty. Inmates’ drawings have also been exhibited at galleries around Japan, while some of their literary works, such as essays looking back on their lives and crimes, have been published.
The management body has already secured some additional financing, according to Ota.
“We will continue to seek additional resources to continue supporting death-row inmates,” he said.
Details of future activities will be announced at this year’s public meeting against the death penalty, scheduled for Oct. 11 in Tokyo to mark the 10th anniversary of the Daidoji Fund, he said.
Among those who have contributed drawings or literary works, six have already been hanged and three have died in custody.
“One of the executed inmates, for example, expressed his unfulfilled dreams in his drawing, prompting us to envision his difficult childhood,” Ota said. “It has been a bitter experience for us to hear the news of their executions.”
Another inmate expressed his desire in a 31-syllable Japanese verse to help tackle the disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant with his own hands rather than be hanged.
“It shows how death-row inmates seek points of contact with outside society,” Ota said. “They also ardently seek dialogue with others through their works.”
During the past nine years, around 370 drawings have been contributed by 34 inmates, most of which are on display in a public gallery in Shibuya Ward, Tokyo, through Sept. 23.
Daidoji died in 2004 at age 83. Her son was convicted of playing a role in a radical group’s fatal 1974 bombing of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd.’s building in Tokyo’s Marunouchi business district and is now seeking a retrial.
Eleven inmates have been executed since the December 2012 launch of the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
While the government says that surveys show overwhelming support by the Japanese people for capital punishment, a death-row inmate, convicted in the killing of a family of four in 1966, was released in March after a court decided on a retrial.
For further information on the ongoing exhibition, call the office of the Daidoji Fund at 03-3585-2331.
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