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2008年5月20日 (火)


05/20/2008 --The Asahi Shimbun, May 19(IHT/Asahi: May 20,2008)

EDITORIAL: Released prisoners


According to statistics compiled by the Justice Ministry, some 7,000 prisoners--accounting for 20 percent of people who enter prison every year--have some kind of mental disability.


mental disability=知的障害)

A sample survey released last year by a study group of the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare showed that about 70 percent of 410 inmates who were suspected of being mentally disabled had been sent to prison for a repeat offense. The most common motive, cited by 40 percent of them, was "poverty."


inmates=非収容者、 囚人、入院患者)(cite=引き合いに出す、引用する)

A case of arson that damaged the JR Shimonoseki Station building in Yamaguchi Prefecture in January 2006 is a typical example. The 76-year-old man convicted in the crime was handed a 10-year prison sentence at the end of March. He has a mild mental disability. Since his early 20s, the man has repeatedly committed arson and served time in prison. The latest incident occurred only eight days after he was released from Fukuoka Prison.




In the days after he was released, the man spent the entire 200,000 yen that he had saved from his prison labor. He has no family. Having been thrown out of the station where he sought refuge from the cold, the man set fire to a piece of paper and threw it into a cardboard box, setting the station on fire. After the ruling, the man said, "I don't have to worry any longer."



It goes without saying that people who have nowhere to stay but in prison are unhappy. If they repeat crimes for that reason, it could undermine the safety of our society. To lessen the chances of mentally disabled people committing repeat offenses, a safety net must be established to provide minimum support for their livelihoods.




Former inmates face difficulties getting welfare services. This situation must be rectified so they can properly benefit and make ends meet. Prisons that release them and welfare offices of local communities that receive them need to work closely together.



make ends meet=きちんと処理する、きちんとする)

For mentally disabled people released from prison to be eligible for welfare services, they need to carry certificates of mental disabilities issued by local governments. The first thing that must be done is to encourage mentally disabled prisoners to apply for the certificates.


eligible=資格のある)(certificates of mental disabilities=療育手帳)

In reality, however, few do. In the survey of the 410 inmates suspected of being mentally disabled, only 26 had the certificates.


To obtain the certificates, people with disabilities or others acting on their behalf must apply for them. They are also required to present "proof that they developed disabilities before they reached the age of 18." These factors have combined to make it difficult for many such people to obtain the certificates.


One way to remove the barriers would be for the justice and welfare ministries to change the rules so that prisons or other organizations can act as proxies in applying for the certificates. Diagnoses by doctors should be used as the criterion for making a judgment. Prisons and welfare offices are also urged to discuss in advance what facilities are able to accept mentally disabled people released from prison.




It is also important to make use of the experience and wisdom of the private sector. Nanko Airinkai, a welfare organization in Nagasaki Prefecture, opened a Tokyo office this spring. It is gathering information from nearby prisons about the scheduled release of mentally disabled prisoners and helping them to apply for disability certificates and finding welfare facilities that will accept them.


A system is needed to support mentally disabled offenders so that they do not go back to committing crimes again after their release. The justice and welfare ministries should cooperate with each other without delay.


The justice and welfare ministries=法務、厚生両省)

--The Asahi Shimbun, May 19(IHT/Asahi: May 20,2008)

朝日新聞5月19日号 (英語版 2008年5月20日発行)


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