• Kyodo

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The government released on Friday its first white paper introducing employment and housing support measures for former prison inmates to prevent them from reoffending.

Another document on crime released by the Justice Ministry the same day showed the proportion of elderly former inmates returning to prison was notably high in 2017, with many facing unstable prospects outside jail due to inadequate support from their families and difficulty in landing jobs.

The white paper said employment support staff have been dispatched to 77 criminal facilities and 45 juvenile correctional institutions across the country in the current fiscal year. These support workers interview inmates to assess their willingness to work and vocational aptitude.

Together with the labor ministry, the Justice Ministry offered employment support to 7,794 people in the year ended March 2018, of whom 3,152 found work.

At more than 100 relief and rehabilitation facilities, the ministry is also accepting former inmates and people on probation with no homes or no one to turn to for help. There they are offered shelter, meals and consultation services.

For elderly and disabled convicts, the ministry began implementing a program in the last fiscal year to support their return to society by collaborating with officials at local governments and welfare organizations.

The white paper was issued for the first time since December 2016, when the law to prevent ex-convicts from recommitting crimes took effect. In the following year, the Cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe approved a package of 115 recidivism prevention initiatives.

In the separate report, the Justice Ministry said the total number of elderly convicts age 65 or older declined 8.8 percent from a year earlier to 2,278 in 2017, but the proportion of elderly former inmates returning to prison was high compared with younger generations.

For men who entered prison in 2017, the proportion of convicts behind bars for the sixth time or more that were age under 65 years old was 14.4 percent, but it stood at 42.5 percent among the elderly. For women, the proportion of younger convicts in that category was 3.4 percent against 11.5 percent among the older group.

The report also showed the number of female prisoners age 65 or older rose to 373 in 2017, a 2.8 percent increase from a year earlier. Their ratio among all female inmates stood at 19.7 percent, the highest since 1995.

The number of female convicts age 70 or older saw about a twelvefold jump from 1998.

Many of the women convicts committed theft, with 80.6 percent of those age 65 to 69 and 89.3 percent of those age 70 or older convicted of the crime.

The report pointed to the unstable living conditions elderly people face outside prison. In 2017, 44 percent of men who were released from prison after completing their sentences said they would not be staying at their own or their relatives’ homes, nor at welfare facilities. The figure stood at 17 percent for women.

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