National / Social Issues

Japanese Justice Ministry devises dementia test for elderly inmates


The Justice Ministry plans to conduct a simple dementia test from fiscal 2018 for new convicts aged 60 or over, informed sources said.

With the proportion of elderly prisoners on the increase, the ministry aims to give inmates with dementia medical treatment through early detection of symptoms to help prevent recidivism.

The dementia check will initially be conducted at eight prisons, and the ministry will consider carrying out the test at other prisons as well after analyzing the results at the eight facilities, informed sources said.

The eight are Sapporo prison in Sapporo, Miyagi prison in Sendai, Fuchu prison in Tokyo, Nagoya prison in Miyoshi, Aichi Prefecture, Osaka prison in Sakai, Osaka Prefecture, Hiroshima prison in the city of Hiroshima, Takamatsu prison in Takamatsu, Kagawa Prefecture, and Fukuoka prison in the town of Umi, Fukuoka Prefecture.

Based on a survey in 2015, the ministry estimates there are 1,300 inmates 60 or over with signs of dementia, or about 14 percent of all prisoners in that age group.

In the envisioned test, prison officers will check elderly inmates’ memory and ability to calculate, and inmates suspected of cognitive decline will be examined by a doctor, the sources said.

Depending on the progress of symptoms, those suspected will be given lighter prison work and a dementia-related training program will be offered to the officers, the sources said.

Inmates suspected of having dementia will be encouraged to use a program under which applications for the use of welfare facilities and for welfare benefits will be made on their behalf when they are released, according to the sources.

The ministry hopes the program will help ease the sense of isolation and financial concerns among such inmates after their are released, and therefore support their rehabilitation into society and prevent them from committing crime again, the sources said.

According to a recent annual government report, 2,498 people 65 or over were imprisoned in 2016, up about 4.2-fold from 1997. Of former inmates in that age group, 70.2 percent were imprisoned again, which was higher than the 59.5 percent logged for all generations.