Three months after being put in a Japanese prison, Kevin M. Mara,32 and Connecticut born, who is serving a four-and-a-half-year term for smuggling more than 25 pounds of marijuana into Japan, was about to sit down to a meal when the jailer called out his name.He opened his eyes and looked up. In that very moment Mr. Mara broke a rule. In facts, in japanese jails before eating, each inmate must close their eyes and look downward.
Mr. Mara’s lawyers say, he was kept in solitary confinement for 10 days. In many ways, Japan’s prison system is impressive. Overcrowding is not a problem, assaults or rapes among prisoners are rare, drugs and weapons are virtually nonexistent within prison walls, hardly anyone escapes and Japan has an exceptionally small proportion of its population in prison.The main problem are the draconian rules and mind-boggling regimentation.
Toshikuni Murai, dean of the law department at Hitotsubashi University, a person that has visited prisons in China, South Korea, Europe and in the United States, steted that in Japan some prisons have no walls, just bamboo fences, and all the prisons have no armed guards with guns. But inside, inmates have no right to an appeals system, and they don’t have the right to conversation on the job.Japanese Officials say that rules in Japanese prisons are VERY strict, but they emphasize that this is an effort to build discipline and teach inmates the importance of obeying society’s rules so they will not get in trouble again.Fights among inmates are very rare but the strictness of the rules means that there is no chance for gangs to develop in Japanese prisons.
And while inmates may be subject to the whim of guards, they are unlikely to be brutalized by other inmates.Compared to American prisons, where drugs, violence and rape are taken for granted, Japanese prisons seem to be islands of tranquility. Clean, orderly and for the most part safe, it’s hard to believe they’re full of criminals. But the system that has achieved these results has increasingly come under attackThe Rules:Rule books are confidential, but the following rules were revealed in the past years by former prison officials.
SCHEDULE: Times for waking up, working, bathing, exercising, eating, resting, watching TV, talking and sleeping are precise and must be followed to the letter. TALKING: Inmates are strictly forbidden to talk to one another except during three 15-minutes work breaks and about 3 hours after dinner in their cells. Loud talking and shouting is banned. Inmates are allowed to speak only to inmates who work in the same factory.
WORK: Inmates are forbidden to look at each other or away from their work stations while in prison factories. “Unusual” actions or movement are prohibited. Guards tell inmates when to start working and when to stop. MOVEMENTS: Where inmates look, hoe they walk and where they put their hands are dictated by authorities, and prisoners are constantly reminded of the rules. Signs posted on stairs order inmates to walk on the white line and not to talk or look around.
Prisoners march in set patterns. SLEEPING: While officials deny critics’ allegations that prisoners are forbidden to sleep on their stomachs, they acknowledge that inmates’ faces must be visible when they sleep. Prisoners are prohibited from covering their hands with blankets. CONTACT WITH THE OUTSIDE: Visits are strictly monitored, either directly by a guard or by videotape. Only close relatives are permitted to visit. Prisoners have no access to telephones.
Letters in and out of the prison are censored or confiscated by officials, and inmates can usually correspond with people on their visiting list