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Putting a price tag on jailing foreign criminals

44 Comments

"Rokuju-oku" yen. In Arabic numerals, 6,000,000,000 yen. That, proclaims Shukan Shincho (Feb 23) is the approximate annual cost incurred by Japanese taxpayers for incarcerating foreign malefactors in the nation's penal facilities.

The figure is calculated by taking the of 6,020 incarcerated foreigners (current as of June 2005) and budgeting 1,200 yen per day for their meals, utilities, medical treatment, etc, while behind bars. To this is added the costs for temporary incarceration of illegal sojourners, said to be 2.03 billion yen, and the administrative costs for investigations, trials, appeals, etc, including outlays for interpreter fees and translation of documentation, estimated at about 3.6 billion yen.

As big as that figure may seem, it still comes to a tiny fraction -- less than 1% -- of the Ministry of Justice's working budget of 750 billion yen. However, the magazine points out that the basic function of Japan's penal system is not just punishment, but to "rehabilitate" criminals to enable their return to society. And since the majority of foreign criminals are, upon release, usually deported to their home country, they have nothing to contribute to Japan's labor pool. Ergo, any funding directed to their rehabilitation may just be considered money down the drain.

Before 1989, foreigners tended to be convicted at the rate of about 100 per year. But from the 1990s, the figure showed a marked rise and from 1997 onwards, posting consecutive year-on increases. By 2003, Japanese prisons held some 1,600 foreign inmates, making up roughly 5% of the total prison population.

In addition to Fuchu prison in Tokyo, 12 facilities house foreign inmates, including those at Fukushima, Yokohama, Osaka, Hiroshima, Takamatsu and Fukuoka.

In 2010, foreigners were said to account for 3,786, or 4.4% of the total prison population. New arrivals that year included 195 Chinese nationals, followed in descending order (figures not shown) by Brazilians, Iranians, Koreans (both north and south) and Vietnamese. The most common offense was theft.

Along with Fuchu and Osaka prisons supplementing their staff with speakers of Farsi, Romanian, Turkish, and several Nigerian tribal languages to accommodate the language barrier, prison administrators are obliged to cater to particular dietary and religious preferences.

"When we have Muslim prisoners, we keep pork off the menu," says the officer in charge of foreign matters at Fukushima prison. "We also had to make adjustments in the routines for the month when they are fasting, and for their five daily prayer times."

Shukan Shincho also repeats an oft-raised assertion: that the supposedly cozy conditions of prisons in Japan, plus pay for the work performed, do not serve as much of a deterrent to foreign criminals.

"Chinese judges have had opportunities to observe Japanese prisons, and I once accompanied one," says attorney Tomoko Sasaki, a former prosecutor at the Yokohama District Court. "'This place is like heaven,' he told me. I suppose there are Chinese who want to take up long-term residence.'"

A Japanese judge points out that since prisoners are paid for the labor they perform, "thanks to the current exchange rate, some may accrue enough savings to buy a house in their country by the time of their discharge."

"Due to the hollowing out of Japanese industry, the number of companies using prison labor has been declining," he adds. "It's no joke to say that Japan should outsource its prisons to China and Thailand as well."

Actually, many foreign first offenders on charges of theft or prostitution are given suspended sentences and then deported, which can be regarded as a "cost-cutting measure," in a manner of speaking. On the other hand, more than a few of these deported foreigners re-enter Japan on forged passports or by other means, and repeat their criminal behavior.

"Stopping illegal entrants before they get ashore is the best means of reducing foreign crimes," says attorney Sasaki.

© Japan Today

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.

44 Comments
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how can these foreigners re-enter japan on forged passports - what with the severe security measures upon entering the country???? does this mean that the security checks that i have suffered through are meaningless? and i agree that first offenders should be deported.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

how can these foreigners re-enter japan on forged passports -

exactly. does it mean fingerprinting failed? perhpas an outdated article.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

@some14some - i certainly hope that is the case as the article mentions more than quite a few. these days i would imagine just a few.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

The most common offense was theft.

Sounds like Dickensian London. Nobody should be surprised.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Maybe they get finger tip transplants first.

-8 ( +1 / -9 )

Outdated article. How could anyone get into Japan today with the security measures. Reeks of BS this article.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

There's so much nonsense in this article it's hard to know where to begin.

The Y6 billion figure was calculated using figures from 2005, when 6020 non-Japanese were imprisoned. Yet later in the article it states that in 2010 there were 3786 non-Japanese prisoners, so I wonder why they used the figure for 2005 to calculate the costs when clearly it would be much lower today?

The article also talks of a "marked increase" in the non-Japanese prison population, when, using their own figures, there appears to have been a roughly 60% decrease in the number of prisoners between 2005 and 2010.

Also, if the claim that "more than a few of these deported foreigners re-enter Japan on forged passports or by other means" is true, doesn't it mean that the fingerprinting scheme isn't working? Surely the MOJ has figures for this and the "more than a few" claim can be checked? Or is this claim simply made up to sell magazines?

Finally, I thought that prison pay was negligible, like Y100 per day or something like that. It would take an awful long time to save up for a house anywhere at those rates. And whilst Japanese prisons may be "like heaven" compared to Chinese ones, from what I've seen of them they seem like awful places, verging on the inhumane. If that's what heaven is like the religious types among us don't have much to look forward to.

17 ( +21 / -4 )

“‘This place is like heaven,’ he told me. I suppose there are Chinese who want to take up long-term residence.’”

"He" being a Chinese judge, so I'm guessing he is a willing accomplice to Japanese propaganda.

On TV, I see immigration officials in Australia, England, France and America regularly arresting foreigners for illegal entry. I often hear how illegal immigrants are a theat to the economy and public safety.

But apparently only Japan is racist.

FWIW, It's been a while but last time I was in Italy, my host constantly complained about illegal immigrants. I saw with my own eyes, in a short space of time, prostitutes "displaying" their wares on the roadside, people openly casing cars to break into, and a supplier was late for a meeting as he had been bashed by 3 thugs who tried to steal his car on his way to the hotel.

I have to admit I feel sympathy for people who want to live in another country or just make money in some circumstances. But I do not support criminals, foreign or local. Local ones are bad enough, but I think foreign ones are even worse.

1 ( +5 / -4 )

Articles like this just encourage crime. Let's hope for not too many people to read it otherwise Japan will be swamped with people wanting to come to Japanese prisons. After all, you get free food and lodgings and you get to buy your own house in your country afterwards. Sounds like a good deal to me.

3 ( +6 / -3 )

The sentence "more than a few of these deported foreigners re-enter Japan on forged passports or by other means" could be a story in itself. From what I hear, it's easy to get imitation or forged passports in other countries. And the "by other means" covers a wide field of ways to enter Japan (or any other country).

In the late 1970s I heard of a counterfeit passport and other kinds of official documents operation in Yokohama. Don't know if this was true, but heard such an operation existed. And I once read a story where this was the norm in the Philippines.

As we read in the local media and see on TV, there are quite a few foreigners who do bad things in Japan, get caught and end up in prison. Too bad the officials can't find a way to keep them out of the country permanently.

And I don't think I would like to go to prison no matter how comfortable it is. The insides of those places are downright scary ...

If you want to gain in insight into prison life, why not visit the Prison Museum in Abashiri, Hokkaido. That will put shivers in your spine ...

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I know a lady and a man who work in the prison system here in Japan. They are not the knuckleheads many may think of prison wardens: the lady learns Portugese outside of her job to better communicate with the Brazilian inmates, and the guy studies Chinese to help talk to the Chinese-speakers. I don't think either really like their jobs - the guy tells me a good portion of the prisoners are scumbags that constantly give grief - but at least they do seem to make an effort for the prisoners "rehabilitation".

how can these foreigners re-enter japan on forged passports - what with the severe security measures upon entering the country????

Money talks when it comes to officialdom - Japanese immigration included. And the passport forgers of China and India are always up with the latest security measures. If you have the cash, you can - supposedly - get a nice clean passport quite easily.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

@Des

Good to get some info from somebody who knows the score. It's fair to assume the majority of crims in any jail are there because they should be. Sounds like your warder friends are trying to make a bad thing at least a little bit better.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

The last time I checked the annual crime figures issued by the National Police Agency, which was a few year ago, the Japanese commit more crimes than foreigners or non Japanese. Less than 2% of the foreign community commit crimes and even less when tourists are included. But too frequently, it's the crime by foreigners which grabs the headlines. The vast majority of crimes by foreigners is for visa violations.

The post does not mention that in the prisons there's no ac in the summer, or heating in the winter. Cases of frost- bite are not uncommon. As the post states, the prison population for foreigners has deceased considerably, while the numbers for Japanese have increased especially for old men who have decided life in prison is better than a lonely poor life on the outside.

Many prisons had to be updated to deal with the growing population of elderly prisoners who need wheel chairs or walking frames.

6 ( +8 / -2 )

Well the mag will succeed where its most ""important"" & thats to make $$$ & to freighten the locals to a danger that largely isnt there & most locals will eat it up & not even see the inconsistancies that are glaring obvious is this blurb

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I've visited a mate in a Japanese prison and, trust me, they are no picnic by anyone's standards. If you have the misfortune to ever be incarcerated in one, prepare yourself for something akin to the Chinese water torture (and I hope you like seiza).

2 ( +3 / -1 )

@Scrote,

I think for the writer to make his point, he had to play with the numbers. There's nothing wrong with that as long as the end product carries a patriotic and respectful message.

I do not think Japanese taxpayer should have to be burdened so severely by these costs. They should be deported when found guilty to serve sentence in home country. Or, home country will pay for incarceration cost.This would be more fair to the shy and gentle Japanese people.of course we have to find a way to prevent them from coming back into Japan ever.Because many seem to get stolen passport, perhaps a subcutaneous chip or some kind of tattoo (駄目) on the neck or back of ear would be helpful to immigration stuffs.

But we also waste money on trial costs,so I'm do think that deportation should occur after arrest, before wasting money on a trial.As 99% of arrests are convicted, we really don't need the formality of a trial.Simply deport upon arresst.

-7 ( +1 / -8 )

The most common offense was theft.

And yet rapist, wife beaters, child beaters... get suspended sentences....

1 ( +3 / -2 )

But we also waste money on trial costs,so I'm do think that deportation should occur after arrest, before wasting money on a trial.As 99% of arrests are convicted, we really don't need the formality of a trial.Simply deport upon arresst.

Huh? It's not 99% of arrests that are convicted; it's 99% of people charged with crimes. Many, many people are arrested, detained (for up to the infamous 23-day period), and interrogated without being charged with a crime. You propose to instantly deport any arrestee without due process?

5 ( +6 / -1 )

I'm assuming this was a translation from a Japanese article, so this misinformation is what the Japanese regularly read (and believe) about "foreign criminals". But for the reasons already given by others it's very slanted and exaggerated.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

There should be a lot more people in jail if they actually convicted molesters from trains instead of fining them...still, they are mostly Japanese so it's not that serious an offence(sarcasm). The article seems like it's just a way for residents to moan where there tax is going.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

There are about 2.5 million reported crimes every year. But the public prosecutor will only take the ones to court which he knows he can win, hence the almost 100% conviction rate. About 800,000 make it to the courts but nearly 50% of those are settled outside of the court.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

As far as catering for religions in gaol, forget that and make them understand that by breaking the law they are receiving punishment and their religion is not important. There are some major religions that teach people to have no respect for other people's ways of life, religions, customs and anything. People who believe that should stay home and not travel in other people's countries.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Ergo, any funding directed to their rehabilitation may just be considered money down the drain.

If they are including Korean-Japanese long-term residents, it would not be money down the drain, since if rehabilitated they would still potentially contribute to the ecnomy.

Before 1989, foreigners tended to be convicted at the rate of about 100 per year. But from the 1990s, the figure showed a marked rise and from 1997 onwards, posting consecutive year-on increases. By 2003, Japanese prisons held some 1,600 foreign inmates, making up roughly 5% of the total prison population.

Useless info without the rates for Japanese criminals.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

This is in my mind:

Foreigners do pay taxes then why no one talk about that? Crimes by foreigners are lesser. If you have to deport foreign criminal then why not just arrest and send back to their country. Very cost effective method.
-1 ( +2 / -3 )

This whole article is nothing else than a racial-discriminative, disgusting, self-pitying, self-exalting moral masturbation.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Ari94:

1: Yes, the majority of foreigners pay taxes. Tourists pay sales tax but that wouldn't really pay for their prison time. Also, I think a lot of the crimals that are locked up for the long term may have been here illegally or doing work in the underground business which lessens their tax burden. If the person had been here for about 20 years and paid their taxes continuesly, then their money would pay for their lock-up.

2: Crimes are crimes and are sentenced accordingly. If it is a lesser crime, they may be deported. FOr more serious ones, prison (like the Chinese man who was locked up for murder)

3: If I were wrongly arrested, I would not like to be sent home before I even have a chance at a trail. My family, home and dog are here. In the future I might also have kids that would be forcefully left behind because of that logic.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Tourists pay sales tax but that wouldn't really pay for their prison time.

If you add up all the sales tax paid by the huge number of tourists, I think it would cover the prison time of the handfull of foreign prisonors.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Some time ago ( wish I could remember the source, but this is more than 10 years ago I think) I saw the crime stats for foreigners in Japan who were permanent residents, and they were remarkably low. I think Shukan Shicho did readers a disservice by not mentioning the status of residence of the foreigners committing the crimes. For instance, it was the Japanese government that promoted the idea of addressing a labor shortage by encouraging Brazilians of Japanese ancestry to work here, easing their way in without even bothering to screen them to see if these people, who might have had just one Japanese grandparent, had any Japanese ethnic identity or cultural affinity.

Incidentally growing numbers of North Koreans are already arriving here (I've met some) and I predict their numbers will increase exponentially. China and South Korea can only absorb so many, so Japan's next.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Nesie: Tat may be true but that tax money could also be used for more foreign language signs and brouchures or other things that would benefit the average tourist. I know it all goes in the same pot, but I think money is better spent improvingthe country rather than help pay for prisoners that chose not to obey the rules.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Wikipedia states that the foreign population comprises about 1.5% of the total population in Japan (although it's confusing as they then say that there are 2.5 million foreigners in Japan which makes it about 2%)

If the prisoner population of foreign nationals is 4-5% then it seems a bit high, isn't it? What's going on?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

They don't come through ports and airports but swim ashore in the dead of night......

0 ( +0 / -0 )

ThonThaddeo,

Huh? It's not 99% of arrests that are convicted; it's 99% of people charged with crimes.

Let's not get too bogged down in semantics here. I think the point stands as is, and your addition to it shows the force of the original argument.

Ari94,

If you have to deport foreign criminal then why not just arrest and send back to their country. Very cost effective method.

yes, this is what I'm suggesting.Of course the airline that originally flew the criminal into Japan would have to pay expense for ticket back to home.

-5 ( +0 / -5 )

Virtuoso,

Incidentally growing numbers of North Koreans are already arriving here (I've met some) and I predict their numbers will increase exponentially. China and South Korea can only absorb so many, so Japan's next.

You're correct that there will be an increase in numbers attempting to get in. But they will only be allowed by refugee status, which ultimately will not be granted. We are already working behind the scenes to ensure that they will not be allowed into Japan in large numbers.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

j4p4nFTW@The North Koreans are already here. Lots of them. They escape to China and then bribe officials to issue them Chinese passports. Or they come by small ships that land at night along unpatrolled parts of the coastline.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

since they (the crims) are getting paid, why not make them pay for their OWN meals and lodging, med fees and tax??? otherwise, us gaijins may wanna rethink our carreer options.. wink wink...

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I can't imagine that spending 1,200 yen per day for meals, utilities, and medical treatment makes up for heaven-like conditions in Japanese prisons.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

this place is like haeven.... but if you come from a civilised country then japanese prisons are hell. No talking ,frequent beatings and use of belts when they throw you in the hole!! frostbite,no access to lawyers sitting up straight between lines,no eye contact..yeah heaven Tomoko sasaki you are a complete doofus

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

My point being half the Foriegners should not have been arrested in the first place for trivial crimes that the police use as intimidation and to check premises and such that they normally cannot legally check. The gaijins were not arrested the cost of keeping them would be zero! In Japan if you are arrested there is no real legal system to deal with except yes I did it and pay either the lawyer who will charge rediculous fees or to the system for release. 98% conviction rate. Very opressive system that if was freer half the gaijins would not be incarcerated and thus less cost for the government here in Japan. Japan would still be a safe country as petty crimes do not make a dangerous environment!

0 ( +2 / -2 )

"the Ministry of Justice's working budget of 750 billion yen"

Couldn't that be trimmed a bit before raising the food /clothing /and everything else tax?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

What about all of the tax paid by non-Japanese residents of Japan, none of whom have any say whatsoever about how it's spent? That's surely a more serious matter. 6 billion on 6,000 foreign prisoners is a drop in the ocean compared to how much Japanese ministries waste on meaningless projects and generally misspend taxpayers' hard earned money. This is such a non-issue it's ridiculous.

Japan should be proud if their prisons are humane compared to other Asian nations, and they should certainly not be thinking of making things harsher specifically for foreigners. In my view they have a duty to the home nations of the incarcerated to try and rehabilitate them anyway.

FnC

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

What are the figures of the Yakuza in prison?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Deportted foreigners cannot re-enter japan with false identification without detection now because they have the fingerprint ID system in place. The unfair and preposterous treatment of foreigners incarcerated in japanese prisons is against ALL international human rights accords japan is obliged to honor ! The 99% conviction rate is unaceptable anyway you look at it and is well known to protect the so-called reputations of prosecutors and judges.Foreigners have long been arrested, prosecuted and jailed in japan often for trivial matters and with extreme prejudice ! The stringent regulations of inmates and the attitudes of japanese guards,etc is also extremely harsh from what my sources inside those prisons tell me. The whole justice or should I say injustice system against geijin (foreigners) does japan irrepairable harm because japanese are foreigners everywhere outside of japan and the compassionate assistance japan received during that recent horrible quake and tsunami, plus the US protection,etc comes from FOREIGNERS ! japanese in large numbers study and work in many foreign countries.....they are treated well there and the japanese government and bureacracy should ensure reciprocation to ALL foreigners living in japan !

Paul Martin, Foreign Correspondent, Broadcaster, Writer-Director.
0 ( +0 / -0 )

Some come by boats. They can re-enter without going through customs hassles.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

If they are including Korean-Japanese long-term residents,

Korean long-term residents are not included in the foreigner category of Police stats.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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