Japanese prisoners allowed to volunteer outside of jail
07 August 2003

Tokyo: Prisoners in Japan will be allowed to wrok for companies and join volunteer activities as part of their responsiblities during their terms in jail.

The decision to allow prisoners to work out of prison is a major change in policy for the Ministry of Justice, as the Prison Law governing imprisonment provides no clauses to do so.

When asked by the Mainichi about the background behind the major shift in prison administration, ministry officials cited the "declining" workload for prisoners.

Normally a prisoner serving his or her term is required to work 40 hours a week in prison on jobs provided by private companies. But businesses are now cutting or even canceling jobs because their products are not selling well during the recession. Therefore, prisons across Japan have to decrease prisoners' workloads.

Discussing how to deal with the situation, the officials said they have decided to cut prisoners' working hours and dispatch them to public volunteer activities out of prison.

Taking a cue from a German system, prisoners will also be able to work for private businesses related to the types of jobs they want to engage in after their release. But only traffic offenders will be allowed to leave prison to work for businesses, the officials said.

They are now discussing the possibility of sending other minor criminals to companies.

To carry out theses new policies in a few years, the ministry will revise the Prison Law sometime around 2005.

Source: Mainichi Shimbun, Japan, Aug. 7, 2003

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