Prison inmates' illnesses, injuries go untreated


"If we had waited one more week, you would have died from uremia," the surgeon at the prison hospital in Hachioji City had informed the prison inmate, who was suffering from an enlarged prostate.

At the time, the man, presently 64, was incarcerated at Tokyo's Fuchu Prison in 2007. He had been suffering from chronic prostate enlargement and high blood pressure. He had requested an outside hospital to continue filling his prescriptions, but his requests were denied and his conditioned progressively worsened. The man's wife also pleaded in vain with prison authorities. Only after the man began urinating blood was he finally sent to the prison hospital for surgery. The process, from initial application to the surgery, had taken 18 months.

"In prison, first you explain your condition to a nurse's aide," the man relates to journalist Kazue Fujita in Shukan Kinyobi (Sept 30). "But as likely as not, you'll be suspected of malingering, and it doesn't get reported to a doctor. Even when you finally get to see a doctor, it'll be a physician in a different specialty, and at any rate, the consultation is over in a matter of seconds."

In the background of this problem are a growing shortage of physicians and reduction in the budget allocated to their medical care. Although prisons nationwide have slots for 226 regular physicians, over 10% are currently unfilled. And because growing numbers of inmates are enfeebled elderly or people from economically disadvantaged classes, the amounts spent per each inmate have been burgeoning. Compared to about 3 billion yen in 2005, medical expenditures at prisons had bloated to 4.9 billion yen in 2009.

The Kangoku Jinken Center, an NPO set up to monitor human rights at prisons, reports a growing number of horror stories, such as guards who forced a man with a chronic circulatory ailment to remain in "seiza" (formal kneeling position) for an extended time, or, in another case, as no surgeon was available, an internist was forced to remove a tumor, and as the incision was improperly treated, it became infected.

At Chiba Prison in 2006, the administrators were said to have broadcast to inmates that "for budgetary reasons, prescribing drugs will be restricted." The Ministry of Justice denies the allegation, saying the Bureau of Corrections has "never been instructed to cut back on medications to inmates."

"In the case of minor injuries that occur during work details, if the inmate is judged to be at fault, he might be subject to punishments," says a former inmate identified only as Mr B. "Even if it was judged accidental, though, the injury will only be treated with ointment and band-aids; and sometimes the inmate's wages will be reduced.

"Because failure to avoid an accidents is a criteria that is factored into the guard's evaluation of the inmate, an inmate who gets injured is discouraged from reporting it. Or, he'll try to conceal an injury that's serious. There have been inmates whose condition became progressively worse because they didn't seek treatment."

In the course of researching her article, Fujita frequently received such remarks as "It's absurd to devote public funds to medical treatment for criminals."

"Prisons," she observes, "are a mirror that reflects the true feelings of the state and its citizens. Is providing inmates with a bare minimum of treatment intended to serve as a kind of punishment to be imposed, in addition to their incarceration?

"The current gap between the ideal as espoused by the law and the actual situation cannot be easily rectified," she concludes.

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The overall situation is not much better for average residents. The legendary good Japanese medical service is history. Why should it better just in prisons?

Most people find it easier and less painful to commit suicide than to accept treatment from doctors who are arrogant, up-stage, disregarding and the treatment is in most cases improper, insufficient, and doctors are fumbling. Hospitals are selling out their best and most sophisticated equipments and are trying to save money on the less lucrative but essential blood, urine and stool tests and other vital examinations thus being unable to properly diagnose the diseases.

Most of the Japanese doctors are plain stupid, careless, insensible, uninterested in their work, have no common sense and many of them sadistic.

There are some good one but it's rare and hard to find one.

-5 ( +6 / -10 )

Yeah it sucks, and live is unfair in prison. Should have thought about this before doing what brought them there.

-1 ( +5 / -6 )

Can't help agree with Benisen. I wonder how much it costs each year to provide healthcare to prison inmates? Cut, cut and cut.

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

tranelOct. 09, 2011 - 12:21PM JST

Good point, I only wish to know whether it is a state run prison house or a private enterprise. Also, it would be useful to know what kind of (killer hazardous) work the convicts are assigned to, how much profit they produce and how little percent of it they will receive.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Agree with Munya, it doesn't sound all that different from regular service in Japan if they know they can't make a quick buck. If they think they can, it's an MRI for a knee injury and three weeks in hospital for the flu (plus a huge sack of medicine!). If you get into a car accident or have pregnancy troubles on a Sunday, holiday, or even after hours look out! you'll first be rejected by several hospitals while dying at the hands of people who cannot be called paramedics because they are restricted by 50 year old laws, and then when some hospital finally okays it you'll be lucky to get a pediatrist on duty that night.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Prisoners are prisoners and should be treated as such but they should not be made to suffer unduly because of a legitimate medical condition, everybody should be entitled to proper medical care.

I know it's a big ask and people on the outside struggle to get proper health care but when you are in the care of the state it should be exactly that.

I know and agree with the old saying if you cant do the time dont do the crime, but doing time should not mean doing it without medicine.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

If a person has a mental or physical illness they should be treated whether in prison or not. Life should have Value, but if a society DOES NOT place value on life you get what you get.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

The value or worth of a society can be seen from how it treats its weakest.

Children are weak. Ill people are weak, too. People in prison as well.

Sorry, Japan, The face you show here (and in many other cases with weak individuals) is plainly disgusting. Shame on you!

4 ( +7 / -3 )

I am sickened by the people who posted here suggesting that we should not pay for health care for those in prison. This is absurd and inhumane thinking not worthy of modern human beings. Of course society has a cost associated with prisons and the care of prisoners. It is part of having a society. Do you prefer some sort of world where you have no obligation to other human beings? Then go live in Siberia's north on your own.

Japan and any other nation should be ashamed to deny care or to have poor care for those in prison. It is barbaric.

8 ( +9 / -2 )

Japan is barbaric to even its law abiding citizens, why on earth would it be any different for those who have broken the law and end up in prison?

2 ( +3 / -1 )

I find the doctors and hospitals excellent here. No complaints at all.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

I've found the doctors and hospitals to be hit and miss. I was totally misdiagnosed by a 'specialist' in 1996, which cost me a week of work and a couple of hundred thousand yen, but have received excellent treatment for a few smaller issues. As Zichi says, choosing a good hospital is key. Caveat Emptor!

2 ( +2 / -0 )

This fits well into the picture of the vindicative thinking about the justice system in Japan. Somebody who gets sent to prison should suffer, the more the better. No thoughts about adequacy - the penalty is defined as deprivation of liberty, but nothing beyond - or the burdens to society after the prisoners are released.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

the truth is that no one, i mean NO ONE, is free from been thrown to jail. No justice system's perfect and, as such, any one of us could have the missfortune of end up in jail, for whatever reason and many times innocently. Belive me i've seen it happen.

I'd like to see if those against medical aid to prisioners, still said it if hey had a really close familiar in jail (son/daughter - brother/sister...)

Still, what happens in japan's health system is not that far from what's happening in my country's health care system.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Yes, it's totally ridiculous to say those in prison should not receive proper mecical care, especially when you consider the fact that not everyone in prison deserves to be there in the first place!

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I'm amazed by the lack of compassion or concern for human rights displayed in this thread. Just because you are serving time in prison doesn't mean you forfeit the right to medical care. Doing the time is the punishment, not physical abuse.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Just because you are serving time in prison doesn't mean you forfeit the right to medical care.

Something else criminals should think about before committing a crime, you think?

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

I've never met a person who wanted to go to prison. Nor have I met someone who simply thought that doing wrong is what he/she wanted to do.

I have on the other hand met people who found themselves up against society. I have met people whose lives have been ruined by the laws that this society created. I've crossed paths with people who have told me first hand what it's like to be a victim of society's apathy.

These people in jail are not monsters, nor are they very different from us. From birth they laid next to us in the maternity wards with no names, only birth weights. It is from that very moment that mothers seek to separate their child from others creating the rat race that is life. People will be push, trapped and influenced into a crime. They'll do everything they can do to get ahead. It's not about the crime, it's about wanting a better life and things that are normal.

Those who support prisons and police are also those who would take food off your table. Those who support the penal system somehow believe that the world can only be a better place by removing those undesirable. They hope and wish that somehow you would just vanish into thin air cause for whatever reason they don't like how you look, or what you eat, what you say, and / or what you post on JT. Soceity's laws are designed by bureaucratic David Copperfields. They simply want you to disappear.

If given the same opportunities and equal treatment, wages, family, children you would have no room for children. That land would be necessary for homes.

A few bad apples, yeah they're are out there....but......but......what is most criminal (There is no law for it) is apathy for one's fellow man REGARDLESS of race and financial status. When we don't seek the truth then we are equally criminal. It is criminal not to treat these inmates like human beings.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Well, at least Japan does not kill off their inmates day by day and then harvest their internal organs as is the rumor of what they do over in China right??

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Nice post Netninja. So many people are behind bars for such things as possessing drugs for personal use. Didn't bother anyone with their habit. But there they are sitting in prison. And now some think they should not even receive proper medical care.

Some people are just vindictive and really any convenient target will do. Its like they think they can climb the ladder of status simply by trampling others.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Damn, can this country be any more shameful? Disgusting!!!

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Imprisonment is a punishment meted down in accordance with the criminal offence commited by the offender. For the period of their sentence they are isolated from law abiding citizens by their loss of freedom. Many of the offenders succeed in being rehabilitated, never to offend again, their lesson is learned. These people will go on to live usefull and productive lives. Upon sentence who can discern which internees will be among those afore mentioned. To deny appropriate medical care whilst in the custody of the state is a diabolical lack of responsibility. Those in a position within the walls of confinement who choose to illtreat prisoners are as guilty as some of those who are incarcerated for their wrong doing. Within the system their are also those found guilty of the most henious crimes, who show neither , regret nor remorse and if released will remain a danger to society, in their cases they should never receive freedom for what remains of their lives, but to illtreat is to bring us down to the level of those offenders

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Great post Ms O'Neill , you're a star and seeing things in the correct way, which is of course humanly.he punishment is to lose liberty not dignity. My father was a police officer in the UK and saw those who went to prison and became good people and those who never learnt the lesson. We as a sociey should be of a high standard and show dignity and respect even to the lowest criminals. Why? Because we can.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

Well said steve.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

For the US State Department

Japanese prisons and detention facilities maintain internal order through a regime of very strict discipline. U.S. citizen prisoners often complain of stark, austere living conditions and psychological isolation. No one arrested in Japan is allowed access to personal medication of any type, often causing problems and health risks to those arrested with medical conditions, as substitute medication provided by prison medical officials is seldom the same in effect or strength.

So, if you get arrested in Japan, pray you don't get sick. Your best hope in Japan is the prison transfer program. That's at least an 18 month process. Once in the US you can get medicine, but then you gott'a hope you don't die from some sort of gang violence.

If memory serves Military personal in Japan persons are subject to some status of forces agreements, that include meat every now and then as well as medicine.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

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