On Sept 11, it was reported that a man in his 80s was released on parole from Kumamoto Prison after serving a life sentence of 61 years. His identity and the nature of his crime were not reported, likely to aid his reentry into society, but his release marks the end of the longest imprisonment on record in the country.
After having been locked up since 1959, the inmate was able to demonstrate a willingness to reform and no risk of re-offending. He also had to secure a place to stay upon his release for the parole to be granted.
Life sentences in Japan, where they’re known as “indefinite prison sentences,” have been gradually becoming longer in Japan in step with its overall aging society. Since 2009, the average period of life sentences in Japan has surpassed 30 years and continues to rise.
This presents the mounting challenge of introducing aged convicts back into society. “Some of the elderly lifers are model prisoners,” one prison official told NHK, “but finding a host facility for these parolees is a major challenge.”
It’s a serious problem that requires the teamwork of governments, prisons, and local community groups to tackle. However, while this unique story helps to bring light to the issue, many comments were understandably caught up wondering what it must be like re-emerging to society after such a long time.
“If I was locked up for that long, I’d die of shock seeing how the world is now.”
“I heard that elderly people get ill from a drastic change in their environment.”
“I’m okay with him being released, but he’s too old to work and has to go on welfare. Even worse he was in prison and probably didn’t pay into any sort of pension plan either.”
“What’s the point of even being born if that is your life?”
“Reminds me of the old guy in The Shawshank Redemption.”
“He’s the real Urashima Taro!”
“He already missed all of the good stuff. We are entering the hell stage now.”
“Outside for the first time in 61 years! Is it possible to adapt to such a time slip, watching people with TVs in the cars and carrying smartphones?”
Based on that last comment, it’s worth noting that this guy wasn’t locked inside a dark box for six decades. He did have access to information about what was going on beyond his prison walls.
Also, like many correctional facilities in Japan, Kumamoto Prison holds regular events to which the general public is invited. So the parolee in question probably has a fair grasp of what smartphones are.
Source: NHK, Hachima Kiko
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