National

Government weighs prevention program for Japan's first-time drug offenders

Kyodo

The government is considering introducing a special prevention program for first-time drug offenders who have been given suspended sentences, a source close to the matter said Sunday.

The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry is discussing deploying counselors for the program at 12 drug enforcement bureaus across the nation as early as next April. They will also work with hospitals and communities to help offenders return to society, the source said.

The program will be provided to those who have been convicted of a drug offense for the first time and given a suspended sentence without probation, the source said.

Around 3,000 people would be eligible for the program every year, the source said.

First-time offenders who are given suspended sentences are not required to enter drug treatment programs, which can make it difficult to prevent them from repeating drug crimes.

Over 10,000 people are arrested for violating the stimulants control law each year in Japan. Of those who finished prison terms in 2015, 19.2 percent returned to prison within two years.

The government compiled a series of steps last December aimed at rehabilitating drug offenders, which included setting up more treatment centers.