There's something rotten in Miyagi Prefecture, sniffs Weekly Playboy (Feb 14). On Jan 22, Gov Yoshihiro Murai proposed a new ordinance by which convicted sex offenders and perpetrators of domestic violence would be obliged to wear a GPS band around their ankle at all times -- an electronic monitoring system similar to ones already in use in some U.S. states and in South Korea.
Weekly Playboy, a magazine known for its libertarian slant, doesn't like it. Neither do at least some residents of Miyagi.
"It seems too abrupt," says a Sendai man working in the educational field. "For one thing, the incidence of sex crimes is not particularly higher in Miyagi than other prefectures, and there was no particular request for this system from the locals. And it would be costly for taxpayers too. It is certainly important to prevent sex crimes, but there ought to be some means other than using GPS. Might the governor just be grandstanding?"
The 50-year-old Murai, who was elected Miyagi governor in 2005, graduated from the National Defense Academy of Japan and served as an officer in the Ground Self-Defense Force until 1992. He won reelection by a landslide victory in 2009, with 74% of the votes cast.
Murai, who perhaps hopes his prefecture will spearhead the adoption of a nationwide system for monitoring sex offenders, has come under criticism from people concerned over the repercussions, particular toward human rights.
"Even experts aren't certain about whether the GPS system will be effective," remarks Keio University Law Professor Tatsuya Ota. "Data shows that in South Korea over a two-year period, among 713 sex offenders ordered to wear the GPS device, only one recidivist was reported. But contradictory reports from localities show that offenses occurred among people while they were wearing the devices. And it’s difficult to imagine there being only a single repeater. I suppose if a convicted rapist engaged in a different crime, such as an act of public obscenity, it might not get recorded because it's not the same offense."
Since South Korea initiated its mandatory GPS system, not only sex offenses, but also kidnappings and murders have reportedly increased. Now some people are urging that those convicted of armed robbery and arson also be forced to wear a sensor -- which raises the possibility that the police might manipulate repeater statistics as a way of getting the public to go along with the system.
And that raises a whole new set of potential problems.
"Would you want to make friends with a person wearing on of those things on his ankle?" asks Ota. "Certainly no woman would. People so hobbled would be ostracized from human companionship, and the resulting stress might drive them to commit other crimes."
"It would be meaningless to adopt a GPS system only within Miyagi, because it couldn't track the person once he's outside the prefecture," points out journalist Yu Terasawa. "It follows that they would have to adopt it nationwide, which would entail enormous costs. Over the past 10 years, some 100,000 policemen have retired, and adoption of the system would create cozy second careers for retired cops who would oversee and operate it."
Terasawa supposes that since an attempt by Tokyo Gov Shintaro Ishihara to introduce a GPS system would generate too much controversy, the authorities' game plan is for Murai to start the ball rolling in his prefecture.
Ota believes that periodic meetings with probation officers are effective in preventing relapses. "The problem is, once the probationary period is over, the offender is left untreated," he says.
Introduction of the GPS system, in Weekly Playboy's view, is another step toward an Orwellian "kanshi shakai" (supervised society). Ultimately it might lead to a person arrested on suspicion of an offense like groping being kept under surveillance for life. More consideration needs to be devoted to examining all the negative repercussions. So for now, the magazine urges governor Murai, the proposed ordinance should be rescinded.© Japan Today