After the appeal process is exhausted, prisoners are transferred from the detention prison to the prison where they will serve their sentence. Male foreign prisoners in Japan are generally housed at Fuchu Prison in Tokyo while females are usually housed at Tochigi Prison in Tochigi Prefecture. All penal institutions in Japan are national facilities under the jurisdiction of the Correction Bureau of the Ministry of Justice.
Please visit the Japan Federation of Bar Associations website for Information for Prison Inmates (PDF – 244 KB).
Fuchu Prison is the largest prison in Japan and contains both Japanese and foreign prisoners. The Japanese prisoners are generally male offenders 26 years old or over with prison terms of 10 years or longer, and who have past prison records. Most foreign men convicted in Japan are held at Fuchu Prison. More than 300 foreigners representing over 40 nationalities are found in the foreign inmate population. The vast majority of the prisoners eat Japanese style food.
Upon admission to Fuchu Prison, the prisoners undergo a 15 day orientation and assessment period in which they are acquainted with the rules and regulations and assessed as to their skills and personality profile.
The prison imposes a strict, military-like discipline. The inmates wear prison-issue uniforms and there is a prescribed way to walk, talk, eat, sit and sleep. Doing things the wrong way or at the wrong time will be punished. Similarly, good behavior is rewarded with more privileges. There are four grades of prisoners with increasing privileges accorded those of higher rank. Requests for assistance from the guard staff are done by gansen. As a result of the harsh discipline, the guards are able to exert near complete control over the prison.
Prisoners are generally allowed to write and meet only their family, their lawyer and their consul. They are not allowed to correspond with or have visits from friends. During the orientation period, the prisoners will be asked to make a list of their relatives which will be their authorized correspondents. There are limitations on the number of letters which prisoners can write but no limit on the number of letters they may receive.
All mail is censored and the prisoners must pay for all postage, stationary, etc. There are strict limitations on communications between prisoners. Talking is permitted only at prescribed times during the day.
Prisoners may have access to radio and television, books and newspapers during leisure hours. Furthermore, outside speakers are invited to give lectures. There are also physical exercises such as calisthenics and various ball games during exercise period. Foreign embassy staff members and authorized non-Japanese religious representatives also are available to assist foreign inmates.
Fuchu Prison provides vocational training in auto mechanics, leather craft, woodworking, and ceramics, as well as supplementary education courses in Japanese. Foreign inmates are offered Japanese language lessons. Fuchu Prison states that it has a library with over 8,000 books and magazines in English. Prisoners are also allowed to receive books from their relatives and to purchase books through the prison.
Work is obligatory for inmates sentenced to imprisonment with forced labor, which includes the bulk of the population at Fuchu Prison. Inmates are assigned eight hours of work per day, 168 hours of work every four weeks. Work is assigned to the inmate based on the results of the orientation assessment.
In addition to the vocational training-related work, prisoners may do assembly work for outside contractors and work in various sections of the prison plant, e.g. the prison laundry, the kitchen, etc. The inmates receive payment for their labor which they can use to order books and magazines, or buy items from the prison store. Any unspent money will be given to the prisoner upon release. All income received by the prison for the sale of goods produced by the inmates is treated as government revenue.
A Typical Day at Fuchu Prison
07:35 Proceed to workshops
08:00 Resume work
09:45 Break time
10:00 Resume work
12:45 Resume work
14:30 Break time
14:45 Resume work
16:40 Return from workshops to cells
18:00 Free time
Tochigi is a regular women’s prison which is also designated to hold foreigners. Housing over 600 prisoners, it is located in a rural area north of Tokyo. The prison is organized along the same lines as Fuchu Prison, though the overall regime is less harsh. The procedures described for Fuchu Prison are applicable to Tochigi Prison as well, with a few minor differences:
The English-language holdings at the prison library are much smaller than at Fuchu Prison. The Embassy, however, is contributing books to increase the English-language holdings.
Instead of training auto mechanics and carpenters, Tochigi Prison offers training for beauticians, (Japanese) typists and seamstresses. The beauticians provide limited hairdressing facilities for their fellow prisoners.
Advanced inmates at Tochigi also have the option of working an extra two hours per day for their own, personal profit.
A Typical Day at Tochigi Prison
07:50 Resume work
09:30 Break time
09:45 Resume work
12:20 Break time
12:40 Resume work
14:30 Break time
14:45 Resume work
16:20 End of work
16:30 Dinner time
17:00 Roll-call/Free time
20:00 May lie down
Please visit the Ministry of Justice website for more information on Penal Institutions in Japan.