crime

Prison uses cuddly mascot in image makeover

43 Comments

A Japanese prison housing a range of convicted criminals has unveiled a cuddly life-size mascot that bosses hope will help change the jail's forbidding image.

Officials say Asahikawa Prison in Hokkaido is too often thought of only as a dark place with imposing gray walls and not as a place of rehabilitation.

They hope "Katakkuri-chan", a nearly two-meter humanoid with a huge square face and an enormous purple flower for hair, will make people understand the true nature of the institution.

"Prisons have the image of being isolated places that have no contact with the rest of society and are surrounded by imposing grey walls," said a public relations official at Asahikawa. "We made the character to change the image into that of a facility open to society and supported by society."

"Of course, prisons are for people who have committed crimes and people tend to consider them unwelcome in their neighborhood. But society has to play its part in supporting the rehabilitation of people who have served their time."

Katakkuri-chan, which has a male and a female incarnation and wears the uniform of a prison warden, made its debut at a recent weekend fair at Asahikawa prison.

The annual event drew nearly 1,700 people, up from 1,200 last year, partly thanks to the character, which greeted visitors and played with children, prison officials said.

Visitors were also able to buy handicrafts made by inmates, ranging from barbecue parts to TV stands and aprons.

The mascot's oversized hair is inspired by the dogtooth violet -- katakuri -- which blooms on a mountain near the prison as soon as winter snows melt.

The Asahikawa prison is the only Japanese prison with a life-size mascot, the official there said, although at least one other jail has a two-dimensional character.

Cutesy life-size mascots, known as "yurukyara" in Japanese ("laid-back characters"), are everywhere in Japan, and are often used to represent regions or towns and to promote locally famous foods, animals and industries.

Tokyo Metropolitan Police has had its own crime-fighting mascot since the 1980s, who is now well-loved across the nation.

Human rights campaigners say Japan's prison system is anything but cuddly, and point to often harsh conditions for inmates, including extended use of solitary confinement and spartan cells.

© (C) 2013 AFP

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.

43 Comments
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It's a PRISON!!! A what? Why? It's there a better way to use hard earned taxpayers money?

5 ( +7 / -2 )

Human rights campaigners say Japan’s prison system is anything but cuddly, and point to often harsh conditions for inmates, including extended use of solitary confinement and spartan cells.

But I am sure the inmates will now sleep easy knowing 'their' mascot is working hard to change that image.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

"Barbecue parts"???

1 ( +3 / -2 )

LOL While they're at it they should plaster the prison walls with Hello Kitty images.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

"The mascot’s oversized hair is inspired by the dogtooth violet—katakuri—which blooms on a mountain near the prison as soon as winter snows melt."....

but the inmates cant see because of their windowless cells...?

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Maybe they need to go all the way...... Make it a "kawaii" prison. Paint all the wall in bright pastel colors. Paint "kawaii" pictures all over the place. Make the inmates wear "kawaII" cloths in "kawaii" colors. They have to eat "kawaii" food. You know give them everything a 13 year old girl would want for their room and themselves. It may be a really "kowai" for harden tough guys.... Think the terminator in pastels with a crape and fluffy bunny slippers.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

Seriously? It's a prison for F's sake! It's supposed to be tough, dark and unappealing. That is the whole point of the deterrent. Gonna have a new crime wave of nuts wanting to go to prison just to meet the mascot. Japan just gets weirder every day!

6 ( +10 / -4 )

A PRISON mascot?? What, do they want to welcome people? Drop the mascot crap already!

5 ( +8 / -3 )

I despair.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

Absolutly stupid. It is a prison! You have been sent there to do HARD time and pay for crime. Why the mascot? Like other commenters said...might as well paint the walls with "kawaii" art.

Crazy place....

7 ( +7 / -0 )

I'm still waiting for Japan to one day unveil its cute and cuddly mascot for cancer. Seems now we're one step closer to that day...

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Why would they use a cute-looking mascot for a correctional facility that houses murderers, rapists, robbers & yakuzas?

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

DisillusionedSep. 14, 2013 - 08:37AM JST Seriously? It's a prison for F's sake! It's supposed to be tough, dark and unappealing. That is the whole point of the deterrent.

If you have a medieval mindset where prison should include daily sessions on the rack, then yes, your vision of prisons is correct.

If, however, you have realised that prisons aren't deterrents, no-one who isn't a criminal sees them, and for the people in them it is too late, plus recidivism figures are HIGHEST in countries with draconian prison systems, showing that it just doesn't work.

The purpose of prison time is rehabilitation. Find out the reason for the crime, be it psychological issues, or lack of skills, or anger management issues, then solve them. The sentence should be variable, based on progress assessed by experts, not determined from some book of sentences by a judge who has no clue how much a prisoner has reformed or even if reform is possible.

The old adage of "the punishment must fit the crime" is idiotic. The prison term isn't about punishment, it is merely a necessary safeguard for society, keeping dangerous people off the streets until they are safe. If they can never be safe then they should never be released.

4 ( +10 / -6 )

Oh yes, this cutesy mascot is teaching those human rights people a thing or two. Now how about a cute mascot for death row. Maybe a smiley face hanging by the neck.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

If I were a hardened criminal and was being led into that prison, then this crazy thing came up and welcomed me, I'd seriously regret having committed my crime. Or at least, regret being caught.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

The mascot is not for the prisoners benefit but to show the local public that a prison is not just for locking people up. It was possibly the mascot which encouraged more people to visit the prison fair and buy items made by inmates which goes towards their costs, so the mascot could pay for itself. Making items are part of the inmates rehabilitation. The reason for prisons is to remove the offender from society and take away most of his freedoms, At the same time the prison is expected to look after the inmates welfare and try to reform the prisoner into useful member of society.

Many of those in prison are of very low IQ and have poor schooling records and problem families also many with hard to treat mental conditions.

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

It seems to be just wasting taxpayers money! Can't think anything else besides it.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

WHY WOULD THEY NEED TO CHANGE THE PRISON'S IMAGE... I can only think of one thing... it's because there's a lot of abuses going on within prisons.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

The mascot is not for the prisoners benefit

True, but who knows what it does on its off hours? You think you're alone in solitary confinement, when all of a sudden you see this thing staring through the peephole... how long had it been there?

3 ( +3 / -0 )

WTH??? A mascot for a prison to seem more cuddlier? Is there nothing Japan won't make a mascot? Silly and childish.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

"The annual event drew nearly 1,700 people, up from 1,200 last year, partly thanks to the character, which greeted visitors and played with children, prison officials said."

Damn, I can't believe I missed it this year.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I'm putting this one in my 'only in Japan' scrapbook. Cuddly prisons, lol.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Frungy - If, however, you have realised that prisons aren't deterrents, no-one who isn't a criminal sees them, and for the people in them it is too late, plus recidivism figures are HIGHEST in countries with draconian prison systems, showing that it just doesn't work.

Yeah, sure! More than 50% of released prisoners re-offend regardless of which prison they were sent to. So, are you suggesting we, the tax payers, should send them to Club Med for rehabilitation? Prison should be a place to be feared as a deterrent. Yeah, efforts should be made to rehabilitate and counsel inmates, but there should be nothing joyous or 'cute' about their term of incarceration.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

Very sad. Have a real issue and cover it up with something cute and childish. It is easier to do this than address the real problems. If you go to the police they also have a cute symbol but don't expect a cute solution to your issues. Dog fighting, outlawed and cruel in almost everywhere in the world is very popular in Kochi. Outside the arena they sell cute dog toys.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Should be carrying a length of rope with a noose for the executions too, maybe pink or purple to match the hair, to remind people that some prisoners leave prisons horizontally...

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

This should serve as an inspiration for Guantanamo.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

They should get it walking up and down the corridors waving at the prisoners. That would really make people think twice about committing crimes that could see them end up there.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Gallows would be a better mascot, and a noose added below for each administered capital punishment to scumbag life taking and life ruining criminal.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

A prisoner is probably having tasked to wear that sweaty mascot get-up. And they can use it to plan their escape!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

DisillusionedSep. 14, 2013 - 12:39PM JST

Frungy - If, however, you have realised that prisons aren't deterrents, no-one who isn't a criminal sees them, and for the people in them it is too late, plus recidivism figures are HIGHEST in countries with draconian prison systems, showing that it just doesn't work.

Yeah, sure! More than 50% of released prisoners re-offend regardless of which prison they were sent to. So, are you suggesting we, the tax payers, should send them to Club Med for rehabilitation? Prison should be a place to be feared as a deterrent. Yeah, efforts should be made to rehabilitate and counsel inmates, but there should be nothing joyous or 'cute' about their term of incarceration.

... actually there's a direct negative correlation between nicer and safer prison facilities and recidivism. In other words, it DOES matter what the prison is like. Shockingly enough, prisoners who don't have to focus on avoiding daily rape and don't have to join a prison gang to survive are much better able to rehabilitate, and so when they're released don't re-commit.

For certain categories of criminals (like violent sexual offenders) the correlation doesn't hold, but research from Canada (which employs psychologists in their penal system) MUCH lower recidivism rates if rapists receive CBT therapy.

It does make a difference how you treat prisoners. And before I'm accused of being a liberal, I'm not really, I'm a pragmatist. These people will be released one day, and I think only an idiot would support a system that does nothing to rehabilitate them, because it might be you or your family member who is the next victim.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

Gotta love Japan and their mascots,maybe this will make more people want to go to prison since this mascot will make the image of prison so much more friendly.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Typical stupid, childish idea.

Why does Japan feel the need to waste time and money on crap like this??

It's a PRISON, it should have a forbidding appearance!

Juvenile ideas like this getting approved says a lot about society here.

2 ( +6 / -4 )

Interesting, child friendly prisons.......

0 ( +0 / -0 )

What is it with these gosh danged mascots in Jpn??!!

It never ends, they just keep on increasing.

Like rats, or cockroaches or something.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

WHAT?! ARE YOU KIDDIN ME?! nah, what a waste of freakn money! criminals are supposed to suffer in there not have fun! i concluded japans childish, reverse and no common sense

0 ( +0 / -0 )

criminals are supposed to suffer

Some people believe prisons are for rehabilitation. Others think prisons should provide work so that prisoners can repay their debt to society. The "prisons are to make people suffer" idea really isn't that popular, at least not in the civilised world. That said, I would find having to interact daily with Katakkuri-chan a kind of torture.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

LH10Sep. 15, 2013 - 01:32AM JST WHAT?! ARE YOU KIDDIN ME?! nah, what a waste of freakn money! criminals are supposed to suffer in there not have fun! i concluded japans childish, reverse and no common sense

And U.S. prisons (and public attitudes towards prisons) belong in the dark ages. In most other countries around the world we've woken up to the fact that putting a whole lot of prisoners together with nothing to do but make gangs and swap trade secrets is a BAD IDEA, so they split them up and rehabilitate them. This means more space, more guards, more experts (psychologists, teachers, etc.), but wow, it produces great results.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

http://inventorspot.com/files/images/39_5_0021.gif is a pic I found of the male and female versions

How long until we get some rule 34 here?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Ridiculous. Criminals must pay and they expect to be dogged. Bread and water.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

that bosses hope will help change the jail’s forbidding image.

Why?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Japan never ceases to amaze me, it's such box of chocolates, you never know what your going to get other than chocolate that is.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Why?? This must be a joke!!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Disillusioned:

More than 50% of released prisoners re-offend regardless of which prison they were sent to.

Could you please let use know the source (or parameters) of that statistic? (ie: is it Japanese? violent crimes only?, etc.)

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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