Young prisoners encouraged to reconnect with society before their release

In an effort to promote rehabilitation, juvenile reformatories in Japan are trying to get more young offenders involved in their communities while learning technical skills that can lead to future employment.

Given the risk of released youths committing repeat offenses after failing to find work or find a way in life, experts say it is essential to meet people they respect and witness to. success.

Manabu Nakajima, now retired, appealed to a nonprofit group of former juvenile offenders to help inmates at a correctional facility he ran in the southwestern Japanese city of Fukuoka. .

Masato Matsuo, Kyushu Branch Director of “Second Chance!”, Interacts with young offenders during a chat meeting at the Fukuoka Juvenile Rehabilitation Center in March 2021. (Kyodo)

In focus meetings with NPO members, which have taken place every three months since the program was launched last year, young inmates are free to ask questions and voice their doubts and concerns.

“It is difficult for us to convince young offenders with our theories. What really moves them is to see these “old people” (who have left the institutions) facing society while dealing with their anxieties, “said Nakajima, the former director of the Fukuoka Juvenile Reformatory.

Although re-education instructors often advise young inmates to sever ties with other young offenders in their circle, the “senior” members of “Second Chance!” Fukuoka ”say differently. Rather than going it alone, it is sometimes better to seek a return to society together.

“You don’t have to force yourself to go your separate ways,” said a Second Chance! Fukuoka ”, who wished to remain anonymous, to the young detainees present.

At a meeting in March, a juvenile inmate asked, “What does rehabilitation really mean? Ryoya Yamashita, the 25-year-old head of NPO who also runs his own business replied: “The important thing is to continue to lead a normal life.”

According to the National Police Agency, around 17,000 young people were apprehended in 2020 for offenses for which adults would be subject to criminal prosecution. The recidivism rate, which has continued to exceed 30% in recent years, was 34.7%.

The employees of the correctional house of the Ibaraki Agricultural Academy receive technical advice for growing grapes from a technician (front D) at the “Ushiku Chateau” winery in Ushiku in July 2020. (Photo provided by l ‘Ibaraki Agricultural Academy) (Kyodo)

Of some 6,000 repeat offenders last year, more than 1,000 were unemployed, leading many experts to believe that employment is key to preventing young offenders from reoffending.

Reformatories are experimenting with various innovations, including the involvement of inmates in local businesses. One even aims to enable young delinquents to acquire skills in cultivating vines used in wine production.

The Ibaraki Agricultural Academy, a correctional house in Ushiku, Ibaraki Prefecture, has been receiving technical advice from Ushiku Chateau, a winery, since last year, and aims to ship a wine “made to. from grapes grown in reformatories ”. Vines for grape varieties, including Merlot, are planted on site, and the young people devote themselves to soil management and watering the plants.

At a juvenile detention center in Sasebo City, Nagasaki Prefecture, young offenders regularly visit homes for the elderly and facilities for children with disabilities, while participating in activities such as mowing lawns and interacting with them. the residents.

“There have been inmates who developed an interest in such jobs after talking to older people and observing the operation of the staff,” said a detention center official.

Photo shows Masato Matsuo (far left), Kyushu branch manager of “Second Chance!”, Interacting with young offenders at Fukuoka Juvenile Rehabilitation Center in March 2021. (Faces have been pixelated for reasons privacy policy) (Kyodo)

Masato Matsuo, 40, Kyushu branch manager of “Second Chance!” who has supported juvenile offenders for many years, would like to point out that the feeling of many juvenile offenders that “life is over when they enter a correctional facility” is a misconception.

“If you work hard, it’s even possible to run your own business someday,” said Matsuo, who himself made the transition from juvenile delinquent to business owner. “It would be nice if there was an atmosphere spreading in the company that allows for covers.”

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