Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Visiting Juvenile Training School in Japan, a brief note on Japanese Correctional Institution for Juvenile and the Potentiality of Implementing Restorative Justice in Japan

Ferry Fathurokhman
(PhD student at Kanazawa University)

Friday, July 11th 2014. I, several undergraduate students and three professors of Kanazawa University visited 湖南 学院 (Konan Gakuin) in Ishikawa prefecture. Konan gakuin is actually a Juvenile Training School (JTS) or in Japanese is called少年院 (Shounenin), a correctional institution for juvenile. As of 2010, Japan has 51 JTS that spread all over Japan (UNAFEI, Criminal Justice System in Japan, 2011:8),  according to Endo Hideaki, Head of Konan Gakuin JTS, since 2011 Japan build another JTS so it becomes 52 in total. There are two purposes why I visit Konan Gakuin JTS. Firstly, I want to know the system of correctional institution in Japan particularly for juvenile. Secondly, I want to know whether restorative justice idea can be implemented in Japan, particularly within JTS.        

JTS in Japan is different with most of correctional institution for juvenile (Lembaga Pemasyarakatan (Lapas) Anak) in Indonesia. As I mentioned previously, Japan has about 52 JTS while Indonesia has only 17 juvenile correctional institutions. Ideally, according to the new law of Juvenile Justice System Act in Indonesia,  juvenile correctional institution in Indonesia should be formed in each prefecture, which means there actually should be 33 Lapas Anak in Indonesia.

Konan Gakuin
Konan Gakuin has a literal meaning as Konan Academy or Konan School. The naming of correctional institution for juvenile is a critical factor for the development of mental education for the juvenile. Therefore name such Konan Gakuin or other name instead of prison or correctional institution is a wise effort to avoid the stigmatization and labelling theory that exist in society that is typically associating juvenile with criminal or bad person. Therefore Konan Gakuin term will reduce the stigma that juvenile is a bad person. In term of Indonesia, the term of Lembaga Pemasyarakatan Anak or Lapas Anak (literally means Juvenile Correctional Institution) has been changed to Lembaga Pembinaan Khusus Anak (LPKA) or literally means Juvenile Special Development Institution. However, according to Nils Christie, a Norwegian criminologist, whatever the name remains the same, i.e. imposing suffering. Christie wants to emphasise that prison (or whatever the name) brings negative impact to its inmate, but in my view, the effort of changing the name of prison, jail, and correctional institution, may reduce the negative impact.  

In respect to Japan, JTS was first-time formed in 1924 in Tokyo. JTS is designed for juvenile who committed delinquency to be educated in order to become a better person. Male and female in JTS is separated. There is no female inmate in Konan Gakuin. If there is female that committed a delinquency in Hokoriku area and decided to be sentenced then she will be sent to JTS in Osaka. In Japan the age of criminal responsibility for juvenile is set from 14 to 19 years old whereas in Indonesia is stipulated from 12 to 17 year-old.

In Konan Gakuin JTS, we were welcomed by Endo Hideaki, the Head of Konan Gakuin JTS. Hideaki explained the JTS in general perspective and Konan Gakuin as particular example of JTS.  
I should say that JTS in Japan is well-planned and well-designed in order to achieve the goal, to re-educate juvenile so they can live together within Japanese society. In the context of Konan Gakuin JTS, the training school is equipped with many facilities to measure that the juveniles get a good physical and mental education. For instance I see that Konan Gakuin has a swimming pool, multipurpose indoor-gymnasium, outdoor field for sport and planting crop, classroom, handicraft room, dining room, workshop, computer laboratory etc.
The inmate capacity in Konan Gakuin JTS is 50 inmates. Currently it has 25 inmates with three cases: maltreatment, theft and drug as the three high rank cases respectively. In case of drug, juvenile has been targeted by mafia to be a drug user or courier so the mafia can easily cut the link of crime chain that connect them when the juvenile get caught.     
A new inmate will be placed in a quarantine-cell which can be locked from outside only. The quarantine-cell is very clean and has sufficient air circulation system and window that allows sunlight to shine the cell. It has a bed with futon, table and fan. Once the inmate is determined to be ready for socializing with others, he will be moved to a juvenile room. Interestingly, the room has no outside and inside lock. Konan Gakuin uses sliding door (a typical door in Japan) for the room, therefore I can not say that it is a cell since the juvenile can freely move inside and outside the room within particular block. For me it is just like a student dormitory which is good for juvenile mental development. Like the quarantine-cell, the juvenile room is also very neat, bright and not too narrow. It reminds me to the typical cell in Sweden as presented by Prof Jerzy Sarnecki, a criminologist from Stockholm University, at the 5th Annual Conference of Asian Criminological Society, in India. The lay out of the juvenile room in Japan is similar to prison in Sweden. It seems that most of developed country has the same standard as recommended by International conventions which seems still hard to be fulfilled by most of developing countries.

Regardless the facility, another important thing to be discussed in juvenile justice system is the relation between the victim and offender. Recently the conventional juvenile justice system has been criticized. The critic is concerning with the victim’s need and the offender’s responsibility to the victim. In criminal law field, this idea is a relatively new notion. Typically, in conventional juvenile justice system, the juvenile who commits delinquency has to responsible by serving his/her punishment in a correctional institution such JTS. Victim’s voice has been ignored in this system. A new idea tries to fill this gap. The idea is called restorative justice (修復的司法).        

Restorative Justice

The core idea of restorative justice is to restore the victim, the offender and (if appropriate) the community that affected by crime. The term of restorative justice was used for the first time by Albert Eglash, a US psychologist who works in a prison, in his article in 1975. To date, restorative justice has been employed in many countries. In its development, restorative justice is evolving in many forms. Two of the forms are diversionary system and therapeutic system. Diversionary system means that the restorative justice program is used before a trial as an alternative means in lieu of trial. In relation to this, Indonesia is going to employ diversionary system for juvenile in the end of July 2014. The other form, therapeutic system, means that the restorative justice program is operated after the trial when the offender is serving his/her punishment. In this part I want to focus on the latest, i.e., therapeutic.         

There are several restorative justice programs in many countries that can be categorized as therapeutic system. For instance there is a program called Victim Voice Heard (VVH) in Delaware (US) or Victim-Offender Conference (VOC) in West Australia. The both program is similar one another, they operate when the offender is being imprisoned. There are two benefits of these programs, for the victim and for the offender. On the victim side, the victim is allowed to meet the offender to express his/her feeling regarding the crime. To understand why s/he became the victim, why the offender chose him/her as the victim. To know that the offender regrets from what s/he has done. On the other side, the offender is allowed to meet his/her victim to show his remorse and repentance. The offender also has a chance to apologize to the victim and to release his/her burden of guilty feeling. However, this program needs a voluntary consent of the parties, particularly the victim. The conference or the mediation can be held only if the victim demands for it and in the same way the offender agrees to meet. In order to hold the conference or mediation, a long preparation should be conducted prior to the meeting. There are many ways to prepare. One of which is by writing letter from the victim to the offender and vice versa. The mediator should deliver the letters and discuss it with the victim and offender separately until the mediator is sure that they both are ready to meet.

In relation to Japan, Yukiko Yamada, a lawyer who studies restorative justice from Mark Umbreit in Minnesota, has been developing restorative justice in Japan particularly in Chiba prefecture. She formed a non-profit organization (NPO) and established a Victim Offender Dialogue Program for juvenile in 2001. This program is actually similar to VVH in Delaware and VOC in West Australia which I previously mentioned. Frankly, in practical level, there are not so many victims that want to meet the offender. In term of VVH for example, since the program began in 2002, there were only 10 victim-offender dialogues occurred which was noted in data collection until end of 2007 (the program is still on going) (Susan L. Miler, 2011: 214).

Interestingly, there are still many forms of restorative justice programs which lighter than VVH of VOC. The program is named indirect mediation. This program is developed in the way of thinking that not all victims want to meet their offenders but still want to get the benefit of restorative justice such apology or practical reparation. In this program the mediator become a representative of each party to deliver the both parties interest particularly the victim. According to Lyle Keanini, compared with direct mediation and conference, indirect mediation was less personal, did not allow victims' more emotional needs to be satisfied, was less effective in breaking down stereotypes and increasing understanding, and may be less influential in reforming offenders (12 Asian-Pac. L. & Pol'y J. 174). In my view, in the context of Japan, indirect mediation will be more suitable particularly if the victim is also a minor. In the case of minor as the victim, the victims may be accompanied by their parents to express and deliver their need to mediator and the same way goes for the juvenile, they can also be accompanied by their parents.

In sum the selection of restorative justice programs vary from country to country. It depends on many factors particularly the culture of a country. In my view, indirect mediation will be a good start to become an initiative project of restorative justice in order to achieve the satisfaction of parties especially the victim in Japan.