Saturday, November 03, 2001

A Detention Center in Harajuku

At a press conference called yesterday, Governor of Tokyo, Shintaro Ishihara, announced that there are plans to build a large-scale detention center in the Harajuku area of Tokyo, very near the Seicho-No-Ie Headquarters. Apparently they are going to build a new Harajuku Police Department building on the site of the old Japan College of Social Work, and, at the same time, build a new detention center that can accommodate approximately 600 people. That property, however, is adjacent to Harajuku-Gaien Junior High School, the Shibuya Ward Central Library, and Togo Kindergarten (Togo Shrine). I can see it, too, from my office at Seicho-No-Ie Headquarters. Local residents have collected 25,000 signatures on a petition to stop this plan, but, according to The Asahi Shimbun, the Governor said, "Tokyo residents want measures for public order. Any opposition to this plan is the ego of the area getting in the way."

The November 2nd edition of The International Herald Tribune--The Asahi Shimbun reported that, due to the increasing crime rate, the prison system is operating at maximum capacity. Officials at the Justice Ministry report that, although the capacity of Japan's prisons is 64,300, the system is now operating at 108%. To explain this in more detail, there are usually six people to a cell in Japanese prisons, but now there are seven, sometimes eight. With these overcrowded conditions come hostility between prisoners. The number of rule violations increased from 3,729 in 1996 to 6,033 last year. Also last year, 29,000 new inmates were imprisoned, 4,000 more than were released, and the average prison term served was 26.4 months, four months longer than in 1991. During the first half of this year, the number of reported crimes was up over 16% from last year.

It seems that an aging society and prolonged recession are behind the increase in crime. Prisoners over the age of 61 have increased; the number of elderly inmates in Tokyo's Fuchu Prison is 13% of the total (2,870), whereas 20 years ago, it was only 4.7%. Immediately after taking office, Governor Ishihara cited the increase of foreign laborers as a major reason for the increase, but it seems from this that there are other reasons.

So, then, should Seicho-No-Ie approve or oppose this plan? There may be many ways of thinking, but, since this jail is not a large-scale condominium complex, there probably won't be any problems with the "Right to Sunshine." It's also a little different from a prison, and it's not a sex-related business nor a nuclear power plant or biological/chemical weapons factory. With the cooperation of the City and Harajuku Police, it might be an opportunity to propagate the teachings to the 600 detainees in the new facility. Is it possible to offer some Seicho-No-Ie "sunshine" to these people? Ummmmmm. What do you all think?

(This photo was taken from the top of the pedestrian bridge over Meiji Blvd. You can see the greens of Togo Shrine in the distance.)

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