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Oct 5, 2007
More prisoners living in solitary confinement
The Yomiuri Shimbun (Japan)

The number of prisoners living in solitary confinement has been growing, and accounted for 47 percent of all prisoners as of the end of September, it has been learned.

According to sources, the increase has been put down to an uptick in assaults and general disciplinary problems, which have been blamed on the stress of living in shared cells.

The Justice Ministry said it eventually planned to have 70 percent of prisoners living in solitary confinement, and will also boost the overall capacity of the country's prisons.

According to the ministry's Corrections Bureau, the number of prisoners who were punished for disruptive behavior was 37,393 in 2001, 42,313 in 2002, 45,759 in 2003, 50,149 in 2004 and 56,182 in 2005. In 2006, 62,306 prisoners were subjected to punishment--an about 60 percent increase on 2001.

The total capacity of prisons nationwide is about 81,000 people, but 81,020 prisoners were being held as of the end of March.

A government advisory body on prison administration recommended in December 2003 that the ratio of shared to solitary cells needed to be reexamined.

Following the recommendation, the ministry started to increase solitary cells, to 34,776 in fiscal 2004, 35,539 in fiscal 2005, and 37,530 in fiscal 2006.

Currently, solitary cells account for 47 percent of all cells. In fiscal 2007, a total of 454 solitary and shared cells will be added in four prisons in Toyama, Nagano, Yamagata and Chiba prefectures.

"The number of prisoners who aren't suited to group living, such as the elderly and disabled, has been increasing. As too many prisons are already overcrowded, these people are vulnerable to being bullied in shared cells," said Koichi Hamai, a professor of criminology at Ryukoku University and once a warden at Yokohama Prison. "Under these conditions, there's a strong demand for solitary confinement."

(Oct. 7, 2007)
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