‘It helps inmates take responsibility for their actions and encourages giving back to society’
Japan has opened a new model prison designed to enhance rehabilitation and reduce recidivism.
The Shimane Asahi prison is an important case study for the United States because it represents an additional and less frequently considered path, according to researcher Paul Leighton.
This creation is an experimental space for a new model of incarceration, Leighton wrote in the Justice Policy Journal. He is a professor in the Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Criminology at Eastern Michigan University.
Leighton visited the new prison called the Shimane Asahi Rehabilitation Center in Japan.
His report provides a background on the prison and Japan’s experiment with privatizing “social infrastructure.”
The United States was once a destination country for anyone interested in penal innovation, Leighton said. Now it is a country with the largest per capita incarcerated population, he added.
The philosophy behind Shimane Asahi is based on three pillars. The first is public-private cooperation. This is expected to bring cost savings and innovation. The second is preventing recidivism with various educational, vocational and rehabilitative activities. For example, it has a program to train guide dogs for the blind. The third is a facility that is “co-built” with the local community and places a great importance on “building together” with the local region.
The report says the three pillars create a therapeutic community that connects people and teaches “humanity.” It helps inmates take responsibility for their actions and encourages giving back to society, while making them aware of values and patterns that lead to crime and fostering change.
The facility uses new technology for tracking, scanners and automated food delivery. It also uses “sniffer” or “puffer” machines like those airports use to detect explosives but modified to search for drugs. A full-body scanner allows staff to screen for contraband without touching the inmates and avoids strip searches or invasive body cavity searches.
They also tag inmates clothing so a “location info system” reveals where an inmate is at all times. It’s intended to eliminate the need for guards to escort prisoners.
Leighton concludes the Japanese facility should not be blindly copied, but it should bring attention to problems with warehouse prisons and should inspire American plans for the future.