Study Program with Kumon Aims to Reduce Juvenile Recidivism

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
The building that houses the Justice Ministry in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo

The Justice Ministry is working on a learning support project for former juvenile offenders in cooperation with the private sector, aiming to prevent young people released from juvenile correctional facilities from committing crimes again. The ministry introduced a system based on the “social impact bonds” (SIBs), that originated in Britain, in the area of recidivism prevention for the first time. “We would like to provide careful support for their rehabilitation using the private sector’s know-how,” a ministry official said.

One year of free support

The ministry commissioned the project from a consortium consisting of three private entities: Kumon Institute of Education Co., an Osaka-based company operating Kumon cram schools; Kizuki, a Tokyo-based company running private-tutoring schools; and Mofu Mofu Net, a general incorporated association working on the prevention of juvenile delinquency and other issues.

People who want to use the project to enter university or return to high school make their respective study plans in consultation with officials from the Kumon Institute of Education and others one or two months before their release from a correctional facility. After being released, they attend facilities operated by Kizuki and Mofu Mofu Net and receive tutoring using Kumon educational materials, as well as support for their daily life and mental health for up to one year free of charge.

The Justice Ministry started the three-year project in August 2021, believing that providing juvenile offenders who have been released with places to study will help prevent them from committing crimes again.

According to the annual White Paper on Crime, the reoffending rate — the percentage of young people who committed an offense during their probation or parole supervision period and received a punishment for the offense — has been around 10% among students in recent years, while it has reached 40% to 50% among the unemployed.

Private funds

The ministry believes that there is a great need to support young people in their studies after they are released from detention. In order to take more effective measures, it decided to use SIBs for the project.

Under the SIB system, private contractors think by themselves about how to implement a project, which is said to allow them to be more creative. Since government payments to the contractors are based on performance, it is possible to cut administrative expenses. The system utilizing private funds was first introduced in Britain in 2010 and has been used in the United States and Europe to implement occupational training for inmates and support homeless people, among other areas.

According to the Cabinet Office, SIBs have been used in about 20 municipal government projects across Japan. For example, Tokyo’s Hachioji city government and the Kobe city government used SIBs in the fields of welfare and healthcare with the support of the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry. However, the project for former juvenile offenders is the first and only central government project using SIBs.

In this case, the consortium has raised funds from banks and a crowdfunding company. Based on evaluations issued by a nonprofit organization assessing the project’s progress status, the government paid the consortium commission fees ranging from about ¥14.2 million to about ¥71.2 million, which will be used for the purposes such as repaying the funds they raised.

Through the new initiative, the ministry also intends to encourage the participation of private companies that are unfamiliar with the area of recidivism prevention. The ministry will examine the results of the project after it is finished in March 2024 and consider whether to utilize SIBs not only in recidivism prevention but also in other areas.

‘It helped me grow’

“Many people are highly motivated to study, and I am impressed by their efforts,” Takayasu Kashiwagi, 36, a manager at Kizuki who supports people released from juvenile correctional facilities, said with a smile.

More than 10 people have attended a Kizuki facility that participates in the project. Some of them entered universities and high schools while others went to vocational schools after passing the upper secondary school equivalency exam, according to Kashiwagi.

A 21-year-old man who was released last spring had requested support as he wanted to study in order to go to university. Since being released, he has visited Kizuki’s facility once a week. He continues to study at Kizuki even after entering the university of his choice, to improve his academic performance.

He was sent to a correctional facility after being involved in so-called special fraud and using illegal drugs in his teens. He was then not interested in studying, but now, he often studies on his own for a couple of hours after regular study hours at Kizuki are over. “I appreciate that they give instructions that are just right for me. Their kind instructions have helped me grow mentally and emotionally and now I have more conversations with my parents,” he said in a satisfied tone.

Kashiwagi said, “We would like to work together with young people to think about their future plans, like what kind of life they want to live, and then support them in achieving feasible goals such as going to a university.”