Japan’s Criminal Justice System

1069 words | 4 page(s)

An island country, Japan is smaller than its neighbors such as China, the United States, Canada, and Australia. It has operated as a system of parliamentary-cabinet since the end of the Second World War. Japan’s parliament (National Diet) serves as the only organ which makes the state laws, while it’s Prime Minister (the Cabinet) works as the executive branch of parliament. Diet members are mainly the Cabinet ministers who simultaneously serve as government department heads and civil servant directors. Then, the Cabinet amalgamates the government departments (administration) with the Diet (politics). The constitution of Japan identifies the state’s symbol and the people’s unity as the emperor. However, the emperor does not have power connected to the government (Reichel, 2018). Japan’s criminal justice system has captured a positive reaction to the issue of crime.

The Justice System
Compared to Western nations, the crime rate in Japan remained low and stable between 1960 and early 1990s (Reichel, 2018). Crime began to rise in the mid-1990s when the nation suffered an economic recession, while the rest of Asia generally experienced a financial crisis (Reichel, 2018). The rate then peaked in the mid-2000s, later decreasing to the 1970s levels (Reichel, 2018). Statistics indicate that the rate is closely equal to that of imprisonment (Reichel, 2018). Despite the decrease in crimes in the last decade, it remains comparatively high, unlike the earlier rates. Criminal activity in Japan remains one of the lowest in all industrialized nations even when at its highest point. The criminal justice system still remains different from those of other countries, especially when there occurs a crime and the police arrest the criminal (Reichel, 2018; Jones, 2018).

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Majority of Japan’s criminal system is borrowed and then modified to meet its needs. The country identifies the most significant elements of other nation’s social institutions. Over 96% of criminals standing before a judge are eventually convicted (Reichel, 2018). Almost 99% of the convicted offenders are imprisoned (Reichel, 2018; The Economist, 2015). According to The Economist (2015), 698 citizens per 100,000 in the United States are in prison, 148 people per 100,000 in Britain, while Japan has only 48/100,000. The Asian giant also has a Koban system which is a key element in securing the small communities. It is known to utilize informal control tactics in all stages regardless of the official terminology (Reichel, 2018). Whenever its citizens are accused of any crime, they are nearly always convicted. Japan detainees are never allowed to post bail when in pre-indictment detention. Those arrested may endure many days of questioning in the absence of their lawyers. The absence of grand jury forces the prosecutors to choose between regular trials and summary procedures (Adams, 2019; Reichel, 2018).

Another common mechanism in Japan is lengthening pretrial detention by strategically introducing new charges. The criminal process allows the police to detain the accused for 23 days before prosecuting them without the likelihood of being released on bail. Such a procedure may be repeated severally by filing additional charges (Adams, 2019; Reichel, 2018). Japanese prosecutors and police can also divide crimes routinely, providing them with the choice to file for additional charges. When there is a corpse, a suspect is first detained on “corpse abandonment” charge, and then re-arrested for committing murder after 23 days (Adams, 2019). With lack of filing new charges, a detainee can eventually request for bail. The nation’s citizens mostly have a challenging time trying to convince a judge to accept their request for bail. Detainees held hostage for weeks in Japanese jails find it the best to just confess to a crime they never committed. The criminal justice structure in Japan, as a result, is painted with compelled confessions (Adams, 2019; Reichel, 2018).

Despite Japan’s system appearing to be functioning rationally, the mechanism applied is like that of a dictatorship. The procedure of questioning suspects in the state and not allowing lawyers to be present is denying people their rights. In spite of the widely acknowledged and common notion that people are innocent until proven guilty, Japan’s system encourages its citizens to falsely confess to crimes. Those with the courage to deny charges against them are punished and may face a harsher interrogation method. Being detained for more than two weeks is also adverse for the defendant as they may lose their jobs or miss other important events (Reichel, 2018). Japan has managed to keep its society safe unlike other industrialized nations, but its criminal justice system requires to be modified in a way to adhere to international human rights.

Effective strategies in one nation may be ineffective in other nations due to impacts of the citizen’s cultural patterns. Among the elements which the United States can benefit from the Japanese system include stressing on harmony, homogeneity, authority, and respect of hierarchy. There is also dependence on collectivism. According to Reichel (2018), these elements are the reasons why the Japanese police, correctional institutions, and courts are effective. Systems such as the Koban may be effective in reducing crime rates in the U.S. as these neighborhood police stations will ensure there is security in the society, especially in the urban regions which are densely populated. Other aspects which the U.S can borrow from the Japanese systems may be correction procedures and the court system. The U.S. can encourage many people to volunteer in juvenile and adult parole and probation. Another approach would be to increasingly utilize conciliation, mediation, and compromise during the pretrial and pre-charge duration, as asserted by Reichel (2018).

Japan has widely borrowed key organizational aspects and adjusted these features to their own liking. Compared to other nations, the crime and imprisonment rate in the Japanese system is low. This is due to some of its unique mechanisms which are not practiced in other nations because they do not adhere to global human rights. Despite the outrageous practices, the U.S can benefit from other aspects of the Japan criminal system. For instance, using a system similar to Koban can prove helpful in the urban areas as it will ensure there is security.

  • Adams, B. (2019). Japan’s Hostage Justice System. Retrieved August 27, 2019, from THE DIPLOMAT: https://thediplomat.com/2019/01/japans-hostage-justice-system/
  • Jones, C. (2018). A Spotlight on Japan’s Criminal Justice System. Retrieved August 27, 2019, from The Japan Times: https://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2018/12/13/commentary/japan-commentary/spotlight-japans-criminal-justice-system/#.XWT-5ugzbIU
  • Reichel, P. (2018). Comparative Criminal Justice Systems: A Topical Approach (7th ed.). London: Pearson.
  • The Economist (Director). (2015). Why Japan’s Conviction Rate is 99% [Motion Picture]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yFINmgSzK6E

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