Prevent recidivism through effective rehabilitation of inmates

It is vital for prison inmates to be conscious of their crimes so that they do not commit them again. There is a need to strengthen guidance and education for the rehabilitation of prisoners.

A bill to revise the Penal Code has been enacted in order to unify two types of sentences — “imprisonment with labor” and “imprisonment without labor” — into the newly created “confinement.” The revised law is expected to come into force in 2025.

While current imprisonment with labor imposes prison work such as woodworking and printing on inmates, imprisonment without labor does not oblige them to do such work.

Of the more than 16,000 people who were imprisoned in 2020, only 50 were sentenced to imprisonment without labor. In addition, the majority of them are said to be doing prison work of their own volition. It can be said that imprisonment without work exists in name only.

The newly created confinement will no longer require prison work and will allow for flexibly treating prison inmates so they can receive the necessary guidance for rehabilitation. The move is apparently aimed at shifting the focus from punishment for crimes to rehabilitation for inmates.

Behind this is worsening recidivism. In recent years, repeat offenders have accounted for nearly 60% of those being imprisoned.

In drug cases and sex crimes, group therapy to help people stop using drugs and counseling to control sexual urges have been conducted. However, such guidance was given in between prison work, so there are aspects that cannot be said to have been sufficient.

After the introduction of confinement, it is important to provide a wide range of guidance and education necessary for rehabilitation, and to direct such efforts to preventing recidivism for other crimes as well. The key to this is how to assess the characteristics of each inmate and how to balance prison work and guidance.

In the case of young inmates, it is essential to respond to each and every individual in a detailed manner, such as focusing on efforts for basic learning and vocational training. Cooperation with experts and private organizations, among others, should also be promoted for the purpose.

The number of inmates 65 and older has more than doubled in the last 20 years. Due to their age, it is difficult to work in prison and some of them spend their term doing such activities as folding origami instead of prison labor.

It will also be important for such elderly inmates to actively engage in rehabilitation so that they can improve their physical strength, with an eye on their lives after being released from prison.

Even if they are released from prison, if they are not able to find a place to live and work, they will easily become desperate and could again commit crimes. As the business performance of companies has deteriorated due to the coronavirus pandemic, hiring by “cooperating employers” who actively hire people released from prison has been sluggish.

In order for prison inmates to become self-reliant, long-lasting efforts are necessary, including support for employment after release.

Victims are inseparable from crimes. It is also important not to forget that prison inmates should have enough time to deeply reflect on their crimes and ponder the pain they have inflicted on victims.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 23, 2022)