Strict rules in Japanese prisons have been challenged before Photo: AFP
crime

Lawyers decry ban on 'menacing' eyewear at Japan prison

44 Comments
By Tomohiro OSAKI

A Japanese prison that banned a convict from wearing his glasses because they made him look "menacing" has come under fire from lawyers who call the decision a rights violation.

The jail in northern Japan stopped the prisoner bringing in his half-rimmed specs -- with a silver bar on top, and no visible frame underneath -- while serving his sentence, according to the Sapporo Bar Association, which has issued a warning to the facility.

Tsukigata Prison disallowed the glasses because they "lent a menacing aura" to the man that risked "intimidating and inviting derision from" other prisoners, the association cited the jail as saying.

The style of eyewear in question "could have a bad influence on his incarcerated life, by triggering undisciplined behaviour such as fights and bullying," it said.

A prison official defended the move when contacted by AFP.

"We believe there is nothing illegal or unjust in the way we handled the situation," the staff member said, declining to be named due to the jail's internal policy.

The prisoner, a man in his 40s who has since been released, lived without glasses for months while jailed for a traffic law violation, said the lawyers' official warning, filed in June.

His eyesight was so bad that he ended up "bumping into other inmates" and suffering "bouts of strong headaches".

Sapporo Bar Association vice president Ayako Ito told AFP this week that for people with limited vision, glasses can be tantamount to "a body part".

"For example, prisoners are entitled to spend their days reading, but being deprived of glasses renders such an act difficult, which violates their rights to maintain a minimum standard of cultured living" as guaranteed by the Japanese constitution, she said.

Ito said it was just the latest instance of a prison in Japan denying inmates access to glasses for various reasons.

Tsukigata Prison was also called out by the bar association in 2020 after it rejected another prisoner's request to use his own Bvlgari glasses, which it deemed "too ostentatious".

Strict rules in Japanese prisons have been challenged before.

In October, a death-row prisoner in southern Japan's Fukuoka region reportedly sued the state, seeking to restore his right to use colored pencils for drawings.

That prisoner saw art as a way to express his remorse, but a rule change last year by the justice ministry led to colored pencils being banned at detention centers.

© 2022 AFP

©2022 GPlusMedia Inc.

44 Comments
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That prisoner saw art as a way to express his remorse, but a rule change last year by the justice ministry led to colored pencils being banned at detention centers.

Is that prison or torture center?

11 ( +29 / -18 )

Nobody said prison life is suppose to be pleasant i guess. You do the crime then you should serve your sentence with great remorse and use the time to reflect upon yourself.

-32 ( +8 / -40 )

Tsukigata Prison disallowed the glasses because they "lent a menacing aura" to the man that risked "intimidating and inviting derision from" other prisoners, the association cited the jail as saying.

what, really? So if an inmate is covered in tattoos, will they be asked to remove their ink or if someone has a "menacing" hairstyle, will they be asked to get a haircut? this sounds absolutely absurd to me. I haven't been to prison, but what I do find menacing among certain people are their demeanor. You can look like the most plain person around and still be menacing or look like a complete thug but still has a pleasing vibe. Give the guy his glasses.

21 ( +25 / -4 )

And let’s underline the fact that the ‘menacing’ guy is in prison for a traffic violation, not exactly for mafia crimes. And that the reason for taking his glasses away is both because he could look threatening to others and/or the others could bully him. So basically they don’t really know why, but they just think he doesn’t deserve to see.

20 ( +28 / -8 )

Its prison !

Get over it.

-34 ( +5 / -39 )

Its prison !

Get over it.

Are you suggesting prisoners should have no rights?

29 ( +36 / -7 )

A hostage justice system and abusive prison wardens. Taking someone's ability to see away for a traffic violation is contemptible. Third world justice.

15 ( +36 / -21 )

And when people say that the present Japanese are just one constitutional change away from their parents and grandparents from 80 years ago we get the "Japan has changed" then we read this, we read about people dying horribly in immigration detention, etc..

As much as I love Japan this place could turn on you in a split second just look how they treat their own people if they step out of line or don't conform.

-3 ( +22 / -25 )

As much as I love Japan

I've never seen you post any comment, other than this one, that indicates you love Japan whatsoever. So I have to wonder if this is just an empty claim.

4 ( +18 / -14 )

A Japanese prison that banned a convict from wearing his glasses because they made him look "menacing" has come under fire from lawyers who call the decision a rights violation.

LOL, in the US you can not wear glasses because they used it as weapons.

-12 ( +6 / -18 )

Strangerland

Today 09:33 am JST

Oh so all you wanted was to find some backwards way to go after me personally!

Ok feel better now?

-5 ( +10 / -15 )

OL, in the US you can not wear glasses because they used it as weapons.

Huh? Maybe you could explain the link below, of a US-based company's "Prison Optical" website, that sells "stylish eyewear that meets your facility requirements."

https://www.prisonoptical.com/

People who have lived in Japan a long time often develop a distorted view of the outside world.

13 ( +21 / -8 )

Prisoners have basic human rights which include wearing glasses and being able to prepare documents for courts.

14 ( +16 / -2 )

Article 10 of the ICCPR mandates that all persons deprived of their liberty be treated with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person, and Article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the ICCPR Article 7 prohibit torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

https://www.hrw.org/reports/JAPAN953.PDF

6 ( +8 / -2 )

AntiquesavingToday  09:01 am JST

And when people say that the present Japanese are just one constitutional change away from their parents and grandparents from 80 years ago we get the "Japan has changed" then we read this, we read about people dying horribly in immigration detention, etc..

Absolutely right. Bridge on the River Kwai comes to mind.

AntiquesavingToday  09:42 am JST

Strangerland

Today 09:33 am JST

Oh so all you wanted was to find some backwards way to go after me personally!

Ok feel better now?

Please don't feed the trolls, that's what gets the threads closed down.

-8 ( +4 / -12 )

Inhuman. Forget the 'e.'

0 ( +3 / -3 )

On TV also that killer of former PM Abe was to seen walking around handcuffed , but his glasses taken away. I’m not against harsh trials or death penalty in severe cases, but up to the last second they have to be treated like humans and supplied the minimum of basic needs. That includes giving them fitting glasses, because not only 80% of all senses are visual, but also directly regarding to their case and jurisdiction , they have to be enabled to read the accusations, verdicts and all those papers from the lawyers or courts etc. It’s really even quite disturbing me, when they obviously take glasses away systematically from suspects and prisoners.

1 ( +7 / -6 )

In jail for traffic violations, like lying about your emissions data.

oh whoops.

5 ( +10 / -5 )

Without glasses, prisoners can not read all the prison signs instructing them on their behavior.

8 ( +10 / -2 )

all atrocities in japan can be defended by this type of expression;

We believe there is nothing illegal or unjust in the way we handled the situation

it is the same kind of expression that Japanese judges use for their judgment. the lawyers will lose their job soon.... power harassment and cruelty is part of Japanese culture, what else....

-1 ( +8 / -9 )

NPO

Center for Prisoners’ Rights Japan (CPR)

https://prisonersrights.org/english/

1 ( +4 / -3 )

Hiro

Nobody said prison life is suppose to be pleasant i guess. You do the crime then you should serve your sentence with great remorse and use the time to reflect upon yourself.

The dude was in there for a traffic violation. I'm pretty sure that a sentence of temporary blindness might be considered excessive. He can reflect and feel remorse, and still be allowed to see properly.

11 ( +13 / -2 )

very "menacing"

https://cdn.mainichi.jp/vol1/2022/08/04/20220804ddlk01040454000p/9.webp?1

0 ( +1 / -1 )

AntiquesavingToday  09:01 am JST

As much as I love Japan this place could turn on you in a split second just look how they treat their own people if they step out of line or don't conform.

Excellent insight. Conditions in Japanese prisons are on par with many prisons in third world nations.

Even the prison in Fuchu, which has a high population of foreigners.

-3 ( +8 / -11 )

garypenToday  11:55 am JST

The dude was in there for a traffic violation.

The violation has not been specified, it could have been the equivalent of Causing Death by Dangerous Driving for all I know.

-6 ( +3 / -9 )

"We believe there is nothing illegal or unjust in the way we handled the situation," the staff member said, declining to be named due to the jail's internal policy.

The authorities know full well that it is illegal and unjust and that they are violating human rights. They are now in self protection mode.

0 ( +10 / -10 )

 it could have been the equivalent of Causing Death by Dangerous Driving for all I know.

Regular readers of Japanese domestic news are aware of drivers being immediately arrested when involved in accidents that do not appear to be their fault or could not have been prevented. That's usually the case when children are injured or killed.

Retribution as opposed to culpability is a significant factor in Japanese judges' minds when sentencing, ie the victims need to feel that someone else is paying for their loss.

-1 ( +8 / -9 )

I'd imagine that one of the few things you can do in prison is read a book. Not so easy if you aren't allowed to wear glasses. But I guess glasses can be made into a shiv.

-7 ( +0 / -7 )

This article has nothing to do with the US so your comment is off-topic

Thank you but only the mods make those decisions buddy.

-3 ( +4 / -7 )

In a street fight, my teacher said go for the eyes or throat. So he has no self defense.

-9 ( +0 / -9 )

I remember years ago living in a gaijin house at the time of the fake telephone cards.We had an American who looked Middle Eastern.He’s using the phone card in a phone box across from a police station.A cop raps on the door, the guy puts the phone down gets the card out ,puts it in the disposal box, at which point the cop pulls out his pistol, pushes the door open and points it at his head.Anyway, his dad was a lawyer, it all got sorted out and we all had a good story to tell.

-6 ( +1 / -7 )

Japan and human rights violations = commonplace. I’ve always felt Japan and China have so much in common with regard to treatment of suspects, or convicts. Amnesty International are often in contact with the Japanese government. Foreigners suspected of a crime: 45 days in a cell denied visitation except your consulate official...

6 ( +9 / -3 )

Different cultures at work.... In Japan glasses are "menacing" In the UK he would have been a "four eyed git".

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Only in Japan would eyewear be considered "menacing". Wasn't there a similar article where some twat Japanese company tried to ban women from wearing glasses because they looked too "strict"? If they were so concerned about his "menacing" aesthetic, why not have an optician give him different glasses? This whole thing is blown out of proportion and completely absurd.

-2 ( +4 / -6 )

The style of eyewear in question "could have a bad influence on his incarcerated life, by triggering undisciplined behaviour such as fights and bullying," it said.

Good. He can be used as a filter. Anyone unable to hold back because of supposedly "menacing aura" cannot be released safely into society.

Give him his glasses. They aren't optional.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

This is not a 'cultural' issue. They took away a disability aid. No different from taking away a hearing aid. Or removing a prosthetic limb and making him crawl around the prison. Would they have had to take a scalpel and remove a cochlear implant before it became unacceptable for those who don't find this obscene? If a parent was punishing a disabled child by taking away their disability aid, it would be regarded as abuse. The prison official who defended this should not have any control over the lives or custody of others, and someone should check on the welfare of any of their kids, as their understanding of basic human rights is inadequate.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

The authorities, of course, will use their stereotype response (when all else fails). That is "Their is no law against it in Japan".

3 ( +4 / -1 )

This is not a 'cultural' issue.

Their is no cultural issue. It is a violation of human rights. Of course Japan's imbecile judges would not even recognise this.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

I'm scratching my head because the description of the glasses sounds exactly like mine. I use the half rim design for a purely practical reason in that I have never had a lens pop out of one as I have with full rim glasses. That kind of frame doesn't break at the junction with the arm as full frames always seem to. I am at a loss to understand how that kind of frame for eyewear could be considered intimidating, or how it could provoke other inmates to bully the wearer.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

This is insane - menacing glasses? What next, having someone's face remodelled for a bit of a smirk?

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Simple solutuion, all inmates who require glasses take a vision test and they be issued "satisfacory regulation" glasses during their term there. Why has such a simple solution not been implemented?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Simple solutuion, all inmates who require glasses take a vision test and they be issued "satisfacory regulation" glasses during their term there. Why has such a simple solution not been implemented?

Because Japan doesn't understand the concept of simplicity. Anything that needs to get done goes through fifteen layers of unnecessary checks before the big guy twiddling his thumbs up top does another check before stamping his hanko of approval and then the document gets trickled back down the fifteen layers. By the time the approval gets through to the prison, the guy's probably already done his time and is back out in society.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

If the Glasses were deemed menacing, then he should have been temporarily provided with an equivalent pair, but ones which were not so offensive.

Banning his Glasses, is like forcing all inmates to not wear clothes or have bedding regardless of the weather conditions. After all, clothing could be tied together and made into something that would help either a suicide or a murder... under the same logic used by this Prison...

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Inhumane.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

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