On 2 June 2006, draft amendments to the Law Concerning Penal Institutions and Treatment of Prisoners[PDF 222KB] were adopted by the Diet.
Although the management of penal institutions and treatment of prisoners had been governed by the Prison Law, the new Law Concerning Penal Institutions and Treatment of Prisoners[PDF 273KB] was enacted in May 2005, with a view to respecting prisoners' human rights and treating them in appropriate manners. This legislative measure was taken against a background of a series of exposures of problematic treatment of prisoners, including death of prisoners at the Nagoya Prison.
Article 1 of the 2005 Law, which came into force in May 2006, defines the purpose of the Law as "providing appropriate treatment for prisoners in accordance with their individual circumstances, while respecting their human rights". The 2005 Law also expands and guarantees prisoners' rights to communication, including the right to be visited by lawyers and other persons as well as to send and receive letters. The establishment of complaint procedures is also provided for. In order to ensure transparency of the management of these institutions, the Penal Institutions Inspection Committees, consisting of non-official persons, have also been set up.
The new amendments primarily focus on treatment of unconvicted detainees, which was not dealt with in the original Law. The scope of the Law was also expanded to detention facilities in police stations and under the jurisdiction of the Japan Coast Guard. In accordance with the new provisions, the Police Detention Facilities Inspection Committees are to be established.
Detention of unconvicted persons has been the area of concern of the Human Rights Committee for a considerable period, especially with regard to detention of suspected and arrested persons in police detention cells, so-called daiyo-kangoku (substitute prisons), where confessions under duress are likely to happen. The Expert Council on Treatment of Unconvicted Detainees, established by the Ministry of Justice, took up the issue of the continued existence of substitute places of detention (daiyo-kangoku). The experts could not reach a consensus, however, and made proposals for the improvement of unconvicted detainees on the premise of the continued existence of substitute facilities. Consequently, police facilities are to be used for detention of unconvicted persons under the new amendments.
While human rights violations have also been reported in immigration detention centers, they are administrative facilities and outside the scope of the Law.
· Amendments to the Law Concerning Penal Institutions and Treatment of Prisoners [PDF 222KB] (Japanese)
· The Law Concerning Penal Institutions and Treatment of Prisoners [PDF 273KB] (Japanese)
· Proposals on Treatment of Unconvicted Detainees (Japanese)
· Concluding Observations of the Human Rights Committee on Japan's periodic report (see para.25)
· Ministry of Justice "Reform of Penal Institutions"
· The First Report of the Japanese Government under Paragraph 1 of Article 19 of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment: see para. 85 (p. 46) for 'reform' and para. 139-143 (p.92-93) for 'substitute prisons'
· "Reform of Detention System for Unconvicted and Suspects Advisory Panel Set UP"
· "JFBA Governors Adopt Recommendations on Detention System for Unconvicted and Suspects"