A day in the life of a correctional educator

A day in the life of a correctional educator

Geraci, Pauline M

A Japanese Prison Visit -Yokosuka

Yokosuka, one of the smallest prisons in Japan, was established in 1883. It is a colorless and drab set of lowlying buildings framed by washed out sky with chilly air sweeping in from the ocean. Yokosuka’s daily motto is:

“Treatment that fosters a social adaptability is given to prisoners through prison labor and daily instructions.”

A typical day for both Japanese and American inmates starts at 0650. American cells have been renovated for central air and heat, unlike their Japanese counterparts. Cells the size of two tatami mats, 11 by 6 feet, have a television, bunk, toilet, sink, a couple of small book shelves, and a small desk. Tatami is a thick, firmly woven rush mat which covers the floor. Japanese inmates sleep on futons. Each morning, bunks are made and futons and blankets rolled up so rooms are kept clean and neat. Shoes must be lined up in cubicles in the locker room.

Breakfast is at 0710. Inmates prepare their own food. An Americans breakfast may consist of bananas, ham omelet, beef patties, toast, and cereal. Though portions are small, Americans eat almost 1/3 more food than the Japanese.

Work begins at 0735. Prisoners are assigned work to “bring up a diligence towards labor, rehabilitate themselves by gaining knowledge and skill of work.” Treatment of prisoners is mainly focused on an 8-hour work day. Inmates spend most of their day in factories where they clean the bottoms of their shoes before entering by standing in water and then wiping their shoes on a mat. Inmates work quietly making soap, “meishi cards” or business cards, cell phone wrist straps, and paper bags.

They wear lime green pants and tops with simple white tennis shoes and hats. If the Warden talks to them, they must take off their hat before responding. The hats have colored stripes which designate the inmate’s rank status. These colors are part of “Progressive Treatment.” New inmates are locked down 23 hours a day, with one hour outside but no exercise, and bland food. Next they are offered two hours a day outside or some exercise. Those who cooperate ultimately become model prisoners, those who don’t get in trouble.

New inmates are assigned the rank of grade 4, the Orientation/Education stage. Guidance relating to prison regulations and living goals in prison are taught. Inmates are promoted in steps to grade 1 according to appraisals of their work record, behavior, and sense of responsibility. Restrictions are relaxed in the higher grades, so that the inmate is allowed to purchase more items, receive more visits, or send and receive more letters.

Lunch begins at 1200, then back to work at 1240. They finish work at 1515, shower at 1620, and eat supper at 1655. Free time begins at 1720. Inmates are allowed 40 minutes of daily exercise. In one corner of the yard are weights for Americans only. Japanese inmates are not allowed to lift weights, but are allowed to work out. This is the only prison that allows physical exercise on weekends for Japanese inmates because of the presence of American inmates.

Americans have access to library in a poorly lit room with a smattering of books. Reading books is considered an effective use of spare time. It is an infraction to share books once they are checked out. They can get “Chobatsu” which is punishment meant to lead to meditation and is considered an effective tool to bring about remorse and education. Inmates are separated from others for up to 60 days and made to sit motionless for 12 hours a day.

An inmate can’t do what he wants in his cell. There are certain times that inmates can lie on their beds but not close their eyes, or they can be in their cell but can’t lie down. At other times, they must sit on their beds and not do anything. An area in housing is designated for inmates going on parole. In Japan, an inmate has no right to apply for parole. That right is vested in the head of the institution. Inmates stay their last two weeks in a small room furnished with a television, tiny kitchen, books, and a table. They watch television anytime and read and don’t have to work. Guidance relating to reentry to the community and life planning are given to prepare them for the outside.

There is a medical clinic where inmates sit silently, one in front of the other, with their backs straight, facing the wall in front of them. There is no talking or reading.

All inmates are allowed education. Americans are allowed to take college or high school correspondence courses. Japanese are allowed to take English and bookkeeping correspondence courses. Vocational training is available, such as lithograph-printing and printing skills. There are also drug abuse prevention programs conducted to free inmates from drug dependency by having them understand “how drugs exert an evil influence upon their mind and body.” Religious services are allowed. Chaplains conduct Bible classes for Americans and ministers conduct services by sect for the Japanese.

Inmates must participate in a Living Guidance program explained as “relevant prison officials and benevolent officers conduct counseling and deliver a lecture to prisoners so that they will build up sound bodies and minds, cultivate dependent attitudes and a spirit of obeying laws, and gain the knowledge and life attitude to spend their life as good citizens in their society.”

Audio-visual education and recreation are available to “foster prisoner’s moral sentiment through television, movies, the radio and music, club activities such as chess, games, calligraphy, drawing, Japanese language classes, performances, and field athletic games.”

Though education and many activities at the prison seem geared toward rehabilitation, the Japanese correctional system believes rehabilitation is based on remorse, Confessions by the offender aren’t sought as much for evidence as an expression of moral repentance.

Inmates are in bed by 2100. At the end of each day, inmates confess that they are sorry for what they did. Staff examines each inmate’s sincerity to determine if they are really rehabilitated.

Copyright Correctional Education Association Sep 2003

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