• Kyodo

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A 16-year-old parolee was sent to a social welfare facility in Tokyo’s Shinagawa Ward in late July to volunteer for social service as part of his rehabilitation.

“Please clean this corridor,” instructed 72-year-old Ritsuko Noda, a probation officer and human rights commissioner representing the ward. The boy picked up a broom and started sweeping in silence.

He smiled shyly when he was praised for spotting stains on a flower pot during his two-hour shift.

“I’m exhausted but I did the best I could,” the boy said with satisfaction when he was done.

That exercise is part of a new program introduced in June, following a trial period, that obliges youth offenders released from reformatory institutions on parole to engage in social services.

“By enabling them to feel they are part of society, we hope they will rehabilitate,” a Justice Ministry official said.

Under the new program, juvenile offenders on probation are assigned to social activities for about five days within the span of six months, two to five hours a day. The assignments include cleaning, assisting at nursing care facilities and sorting postage stamps for charity.

It was the second time the 16-year-old had participated in such activities. He was previously assigned to sort used postage stamps at a local probation office.

The youths are often assigned to different tasks and offices so that they can meet a wide range of people.

But many facilities are still hesitant to accept such teenagers, making it hard for the Justice Ministry to find a place where they can conduct volunteer work.

Nursing homes often turn down requests to accept them because work at such places involves physical contact with patients and operators don’t want to risk any trouble.

“We need to gain public understanding a little at a time,” the Justice Ministry official said.

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