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Prison rules close to first review since Meiji Era as recidivism climbs

Kyodo

The Justice Ministry is considering reviewing the treatment of prison inmates to place greater stress on rehabilitation, a government source said Friday.

In the first major shift on the circumstances of imprisonment in Japan in over a century since the Meiji Era (1868-1912), the reforms will put greater emphasis on preparing inmates for reintegration into society upon their release, the source said. The government hopes to reduce what is now a growing number of repeat offenders, the source added.

The recidivism rate rose for 19 straight years to 48 percent in 2015, according to a white paper on crime.

Under the Penal Code, there is a two-track system for imprisonment with or without hard labor. The former prisoners are required to do prison work — such as making clothes, shoes and furniture — while the latter are not obliged to do so.

In practice, too much emphasis is placed on punishing inmates through hard labor and not enough on rehabilitation and helping inmates acquire useful skills so they can find jobs and reintegrate into society upon release, according to the government source.

One of the ministry’s proposals is for the law to stipulate that these two classifications will be unified, and put into writing that authorities will impose labor on prison inmates and also take necessary measures to help them reintegrate into society, the government source said.