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Miyagi's mandatory monitoring of sex offenders raises potential problems

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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

©2018 GPlusMedia Inc.

24 Comments
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This whole dilemma becomes a hands on hands off approach.

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convicted sex offenders and perpetrators of domestic violence

People so hobbled would be ostracized from human companionship

Maybe they should have thought of that before they abused others?? I mean, come on. If you've already proved you're a threat to other people, who cares if you're ostracized? The fact that you've got a GPS monitor on your ankle would be a great signal to any potential date, "DO NOT DATE THIS PERSON. THEY MAY ABUSE YOU OR YOUR CHILDREN." It's the next best thing to wearing a giant flashing sign saying, "I'M AN ABUSER!"

Sheesh. Cry me a river.

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Who needs hi-tech? Just make them wear a cow bell around their neck so you can hear them coming. That's still more humane than tattooing (on the face), which is what they did with incorrigible offenders in the Edo period.

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Maybe they should have thought of that before they abused others?? I mean, come on. If you've already proved you're a threat to other people, who cares if you're ostracized?

The less offenders can re-integrate into normal society the more likely they are to offend again.

If these people are a threat to society and have committed a crime they should not be released from prison. If they've been released from prison (served their time/been rehabilitated) they need the opportunity to straighten out their lives.

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Ultimately it might lead to a person arrested on suspicion of an offense like groping being kept under surveillance for life

Playboy supports groping?

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Almost sounds like the folks fighting this may have something to hide with their personal life and are afraid they may have the honor to wear the GPS device. But even so, if not the GPS, then make it simple, tattoo them for each crime committed. Use the three strikes law like some of the US states have established to make sure their is no confusion on their prior crimes they committed.

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The less offenders can re-integrate into normal society the more likely they are to offend again.

If these people are a threat to society and have committed a crime they should not be released from prison. If they've been released from prison (served their time/been rehabilitated) they need the opportunity to straighten out their lives.

There's a reason sex offenders get the tracking devices while most other offenders don't: The reason is that they DON'T get rehabilitated as a general rule. A sex offender's brain is wired such that they cannot resist the impulse to commit the crime and will say anything to their jailers in order to get back to what they were doing before. They already know what they're doing is wrong, so having the prison shrink point it out to them is a waste of time.

The big problem I see with GPS is it doesn't work if you're indoors - like in a mall or a office building. It also would be intermittant at best on a train - especially on a train packed with people. So you could have an offender wearing a GPS device enter a mall, and 30 minutes later someone else gropes a girl on the other side of the mall. Guess who the police are chasing down?

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Guess who the police are chasing down?

Wouldn't an eyewitness description of the perpetrator (or an alibi) get an innocent man off the hook?

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you can block GPS signals very easily (easier than 3G) and yeap this is a sure way that the individual will find him/herself unable to have a normal relationship with anyone regardless of the type of crime giving them all the more reason to take part in another crime.

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I do not see anything wrong with having them wearing GPS tracking devices. I would even suggest to have their pictures posted either online or at the local police stations for anyone to view.

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Wouldn't an eyewitness description of the perpetrator (or an alibi) get an innocent man off the hook?

Absolutely! As would security camera footage showing the guy wearing the GPS device spending all his time on the other end of the mall. But that kind of information takes time to discover, whereas the GPS tracker data can be called up in seconds. So police will waste time locating the guy with the tracking device while the real perp slips away. By the time they get the info exonorating the sex offender, the real perp could be miles away.

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Honey, what is that glowing thing around your ankle? Oh, that is a balance bracelet to keep me from falling down dear.

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“Would you want to make friends with a person wearing on of those things on his ankle?” asks Ota. “Certainly no woman would.

I wouldn't want to be friends with a child molester or wife-beater. What is so starnge about that to Ota?

People so hobbled would be ostracized from human companionship, and the resulting stress might drive them to commit other crimes.”

Right, so child molesters commit crimes because they are lonely?

And they are lonely because they have a GPS device on their ankle making no-one want to talk to them? (because whenever I meet someone I always check their ankles for GPS devices, It's the normal thing to do, right?)

So why did they get the GPS on their ankle?

Because they committed a crime, you idiot!

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What this boils down to is the issue of recidivism. As Fadamor said, sex offenders usually can't change their predilictions. This is not to say that they cannot learn to control themselves, but there is always some risk of recidivism. However, becasue these GPS devices are only going to be put on offenders who have already been caught and rehabilitatedpunished once, the question is if the money and man-hours required for this system would be better spent on extended or indefinite probationary periods. If the GPS is enough to scare them into never offending again, it's a good investment. Unfortunately, the technology isn't perfect and ostracization breeds contempt. When offenders start thinking "I don't care, let them try to put me in jail," the system becomes an easier way for police to catch perps rather than a means of protecting the public.

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Unless wearing the bracelet is a condition of their sentence or parole there is no legal basis for forcing offenders to wear this thing. Mr Murai does not have the authority to pass sentences on criminals as he is not a judge. All he is doing is posturing, like most other Japanese politicians.

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These things are coming whether people like it or not. It's big business. You know the deal - first it'll be sex offenders, then drink drivers (you know - stuff that is difficult to say anything against) then later on the line any trivial offence. 'Wrong thoughts' perhaps? Next debate - pre-crime.

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Kenguy at 10:15 AM JST - 1st February What this boils down to is the issue of recidivism. As Fadamor said, sex offenders usually can't change their predilictions.

... except that recidivism rates amongst sexual offenders are actually lower than other criminal populations. Google it, and ignore all the advocacy sites and actually read the criminal psychology journals and you'll find that experts actually agree that the majority of sexual offenders don't reoffend. There are certain categories of sexual offenders that are more likely to reoffend, but they're easily identified, and are normally facing life-sentences anyway.

The truth is that the "fact" that sexual offenders reoffend more often is an urban legend, mostly perpetuated by special interest groups and politicians wanting to look like they're doing something coming up to elections.

If one tags one type of criminal then surely other, more serious, crimes should also be tagged, like murderers, habitual drunk drivers, etc. Especially with offenses like habitual drunk driving this could actually do some good, because a bar owner could have a monitor that warns them not to serve that individual.

But these crimes aren's sufficiently "shocking" to drum up public sentiment, even mass murderers aren't treated like this. Why should someone who once bumped someone in a crowded train?

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Shame on most of you for supporting this.

Sex offenders have done bad things but the article also says that they want these monitors on "perpetrators of domestic violence" -- one of the easiest crimes to falsely accuse someone of. Large numbers of men are falsely accused of being "chikan" on the trains too.

And have we forgotten that the 99% conviction rate that virtually assures that there will be many people falsely convicted?

Woundedsamurai1 sees what's going on. Start with the criminals that it's least socially acceptable to defend in polite conversation, and move on from there to other criminals. Next thing you know there are National Police Agency-branded monitors on everyone. "First they came for the sex offenders..." How does the rest of that poem go?

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It seems logical to me that treating ex-convicts in a way to further ostracize them and make their reinsertion in society even more difficult may lead to these reinsertions being likely to be unsuccessful, leading to more recidivism and, in the end, more crime. You have to make sure that the right path is easier to take than the wrong one, and just piling on the supposedly rehabilitated ex-convicts seem to be counter-productive.

Look at the US, they are amongst the countries that go farthest in the western world in imposing limits on ex-convicts and crime rates aren't lower than elsewhere in the developed world, if anything they are higher.

Oh sure, doing that seems to appeal to some people's sense of self-righteousness. As if hating people who committed crimes made you better people. But if the choice is between efficient policies to reduce criminality or personal moral satisfaction, I choose the first.

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Nicely put kchoze.

I'd just like to add that recidivism (for all categories of crime) wouldn't actually be less of a problem is prisons weren't just glorified "time out" boxes. If prisoners were actually rehabilitated then recidivism would be lower.

Instead it seems that rather than fixing a clearly broken prison system the authorities just want to add more and more penalties to prisoners who have fully paid their debt to society and should be getting about the business of becoming fully reintegrated and productive members of society.

This path is simply madness. Instead of having someone go to prison, be rehabilitated during their time there, and emerge a productive citizen who's taxes will eventually repay the cost of their rehabilitation these idiots want the person to go to prison (at the taxpayers' expense), come out of prison and be tagged and monitored for the rest of their lives (at the taxpayers' expense) with a visible sign of their criminal past that will prevent them from ever being employer and ever repaying the financial cost of their debt to society.

Now before anyone goes off at me for focusing on the financial aspect I would remind you that financial mismanagement of a country's taxes has as real a human cost as crime. If the governor misdirects funds from health to this misadventure in "crime prevention" then chances are that people will suffer and may even die, if he misdirects funds from education you'll see other crime categories rise, etc. Recidivism carries a human cost, but so do idiotic schemes like this.

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'I'd just like to add that recidivism (for all categories of crime) wouldn't actually be less of a problem is prisons weren't just glorified "time out" boxes. If prisoners were actually rehabilitated then recidivism would be lower.'--Totally agree!

It's actually pretty ridiculous to say okay, we let you out of prison and you are free and can move about in society as you wish but we are going to monitor you (because we are pretty sure that you are going to commit a crime again) so we can catch you again and put you back in prison! If the offender is really dangerous and really can't be rehabilitated then keep him in prison! If the person can be rehabilitated then please rehabilitate that person while they are incarcerated!!

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if recidivism rates for sex offenders is so high, they shouldn't be let out of jail in the first place! the gps could be offered to them as a way of allowing them out into society.

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@Wounded Samurai1:

These things are coming whether people like it or not. It's big business. You know the deal - first it'll be sex offenders, then drink drivers (you know - stuff that is difficult to say anything against) then later on the line any trivial offence. 'Wrong thoughts' perhaps? Next debate - pre-crime.

You're behind the times. They already have breathalyzer ignition locks that have been ordered installed by the court (at the offender's expense) for repeat-offenders of DUI. Before the car can start, the driver has to blow into a tube next to the steering wheel. If the blood-alcohol level is too-high (the BAC level being set by the court), then the car will not start.

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dolphingirl and fds - I agree 100%. Basically this move is a tacit admission by the state that they haven't done a sufficiently good job in rehabilitating these prisoners.

To shift the blame for their failure to the prisoners is ridiculous and inappropriate. It's also a massive disservice to the public. A GPS bracelet won't stop them from committing a crime, it'll just help the police prove if they were in the same area when a crime was committed. Even then it doesn't prove they did it (although in Japan I strongly suspect that the police would just pin it on them anyway and go out for an early lunch).

That's not much of a consolation for a woman or child who's been raped. Yay, they caught they guy! (much sarcasm!)

They should rehabilitate these prisoners properly, not try institute short-sighted, ineffective and insufficient policies that do NOTHING to protect the public, cost the public a LOT, and basically are just lame attempts to cover up that they're not doing their jobs.

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