Date of the report
Author(s)Center for Prisoners’ rights / Pr Akaike (Univ. of Kyoto) / Mme Yasuda (Univ. of Kokugakuin)

The penitentiary system

In Japan, the collective term penal institutions denotes prisons, juvenile facilities and detention houses. Both prisons and juvenile facilities mainly accommodate sentenced inmates and conduct correctional treatment. Detention house are mainly for un-sentenced inmates awaiting trial.
Sentenced prisoners are usually classified, not by security level per say, but by gender, term of imprisonment and inclination towards criminal activities. Long-term prisoners are considered to be those prisoners for a term equal or greater than 10 years.

In 2014, the total number of prisons was comprised of 62 adult prisons, 8 branch prisons, 52 juvenile facilities, 8 detention houses and 103 branch detention houses. The prison administration has responsibility also for juvenile classification homes and juvenile training schools, whose occupants are not included in the prison population. There are four Private Financial Initiative (PFI) institutions (Mine, Shimane Asahi, Kitsuregawa and Harima), but management of these facilities is shared conducted by the private sector and the Ministry of Justice.
The PFI uses private capital and expertise in the construction, maintenance and operation of public institutions. The scope of the operation entrusted to the private sector can include treatment of inmates and the security of the prison. These organizations have a reported high turnover of employees, and there are rumors of precarious contracts.

Japanese prison staffs include prison officers who are in charge of the overall treatment of inmates, industry specialists for reform and educational courses and assessment specialists who are concerned with prisoner work and guidance needs. In addition, prisons are staffed with medical doctors, pharmacists, nurses and general clerical staff.
Prison officers are classified into seven ranks: correctional superintendent supervisors, correctional superintendents, vice-correctional superintendents, captains, assistant captains, senior prison officers and junior prison officers.
In 2011 there were close to 19,380 staff working in the Japanese prison system.

According to prison administrators, prison officers impose a strict, military-like discipline in order to maintain the security, order, and safety of the institution and its inmates. The prisoners wear uniforms and are prescribed ways to walk, talk, eat, sit and sleep. Any breach of this discipline is subject to punishment.
Prison staff complain that more staff are required in order to face new types of prisoners such as drug addicts and the elderly, which both require specific, additional attention.

Guards-inmates ratio


Social workers-inmates ratio