Geoffrey is incarcerated in Osaka, Japan. He regularly exchanges letters with the Prison Insider team, and was asked to describe how a regular day is spent. He has described his working and non-working days and underlined the special treatment reserved for foreign prisoners.
After more than three months of silence, he has sent another testimonial which is soon to be published. Geoffrey begins his letter by apologizing for his delayed response, and provides some very interesting information on how the Japanese prison system works on a daily basis.
...we are only allowed five letters per month…only one per week.
"Have you ever heard of anything more ridiculous than that?"¶
THE FAST FEW MONTHS have been unbelievably demanding and traumatic. Allow me to explain, and perhaps my experience could be used to focus attention on similar situations.
Firstly, my daughter Rachel, who resides in England, e-mailed a friend in Japan (this makes it incredibly faster to receive messages) to inform me that my mother died on 10 December 2018…just two days after her 89th birthday.
Since there is no access to telephones, not even for “compassionate grounds”, I had to resort to “postal letters/airmail” to inform family and friends of this unhappy event.
This is made much more difficult by the rule that we are only allowed five letters per month…only one per week. If you want to send more than one letter per week, a special request (gansen) must be submitted which takes 2-3 weeks for approval, so the request becomes obsolete over that period.
Moreover, it is forbidden to include a message for “someone else” in a letter. In effect, I cannot send a letter to a designated person and request that brief messages be passed on to other recipients. This ban even extends to sending a letter to “Mr and Mrs J. Smith” – since the Japanese authorities consider this to be two separate individuals, even though they are married and living together!! Have you ever heard of anything more ridiculous than that?
As you will appreciate, my “letter allowance” for January and February has been primarily devoted to contacting family and friends to inform them of the news of my mother’s demise.
Secondly, and much more agreeable and pleasant, was the notification on January 24 that the Japanese authorities have finally approved, in full, my application for ‘PTA’ or “Prisoner Transfer Agreement”. You will note the emphasis on “finally”. This is because the British authorities have been trying to obtain this transfer acceptance agreement for me since early 2014. They sent a full government approval which involved several separate government offices/departments, the Foreign Office, and the British Police to the Japanese Ministry of Justice (or should that be Injustice?) on 7 February 2018.
In effect, it has taken the Japanese authorities 12 months to respond! However, as you will note, even though all of the “acceptances” came from various government departments, after almost eight weeks, I am still incarcerated in a Japanese prison.
There can be little doubt that the authorities have only the greatest contempt for the responsibilities contained in a State-accepted treaty. More letters needed to be sent to various family members and friends to prepare them for my arrival in England…whenever that happens. Thus, with these two events occurring almost simultaneously, there has been a scramble to use the “letter allowance” to inform people of the unfolding events. This accounts for the very extreme delay in my reply.
The three years spent in detention in absolute solitary confinement do not count as “time served” under the Japanese system
Let me clarify my sentence: the Japanese courts have sentenced me to 7 years, 6 months plus “500 days in lieu of payment of fine” (the sentence is thus 7 years, 6 months + 500 days, or 1 year and 4 months, so the total would be 8 years and 10 months).
However, the 3 years spent in detention in absolute solitary confinement do not count as “time served” under the Japanese system!
In effect, my sentence only commenced on 23 November 2013, although I had been in detention since 4 June 2010!
The 3 years and 5 months enduring court proceedings, and being kept hostage when declared innocent (!!), do not count in the Japanese system…ridiculously crazy, but true!! In contrast, once I am transferred to England, the authorities do recognize the time in detention as time served, thus my full sentence (by British system) of 8 years and 10 months began on 4 June 2010…so will end on, or about, 4 April 2019, this year! Or, nineteen days from the date of this letter! One comment- you will be aware that Mr. Carlos Ghosn (ex-CEO of Renault-Nissan) has just spent 3 months in a Tokyo Detention Centre, and has just been granted parole. This has focused attention on court delays and the way “detention” in solitary conditions is used as a form of “hostage taking” to force an accused person to confess. Most convictions in Japan rely entirely upon a statement by an accused admitting guilt…it accounts for over 98% of convictions! Perhaps this media attention may lead to some radical changes in the legal system and detention conditions?