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Report on Japanese Prisons Released

Human Rights Watch Asia has recently released a booklet titled Prison Conditions in Japan. The 93 page booklet gives a detailed overview of the Japanese prison system. Organized by topic the booklet includes a summary with chapters covering police detention, physical conditions, communication between prisoners and the outside world, punishment, death row, treatment of foreign prisoners and immigration detention and more. The booklet is an excellent complement to Mr. Leupp's article in this issue of PLN.

Many in the U.S. have upheld the Japanese prison system as a model to emulate, all too frequently this enthusiasm is based on ignorance of actual prison conditions in that country. This is summed up by the Japanese government's response to those who criticize the draconian nature of the prison system stating: "these arguments are quite groundless. If they were true, riots and disturbances would have occurred frequently." Human Rights Watch notes: "A careful look at the Japanese prison system strongly suggests that the lack of serious prison disturbances may be related to the draconian discipline and the fear among prisoners and not necessarily the general contentment of the Japanese prison population. Order is achieved at a very high cost: the cost of violating fundamental human rights and failing to observe international standards the country has ratified." Anyone interested in the Japanese prison system should get this book. Copies are available for $10 from: Human Rights Watch, 485 Fifth Ave. New York, NY 10017-6104. (212) 972-8400.

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