Wednesday, 5 April 2006

Japan: Lonely wait for the noose

About a quarter of Japan’s death row prisoners receive no visitors and most spend their days locked alone in a small cell, according to a recent survey reported by Japanese online newspaper Asahi Shimbun.

The Japan Federation of Bar Associations surveyed all 79 inmates on death row whose sentences had been finalised by 11 January. Some 58 inmates responded: 54 men, 3 women and 1 anonymous response.

The survey was conducted with the support of the Justice Ministry.

It found that about 25 percent of prisoners said they received no visitors. One inmate last received a visitor 17 years ago. Many who receive visitors only have contact with their relatives or their lawyers.

Most spend their days locked in solitary confinement in small cells, containing a toilet and a basin. They have no contact with other prisoners, they bath alone and most exercise alone two or three times a week.

Seventy percent said the windows in their cells were covered by smoked glass or metal, and forty percent said sunshine did not reach their cells.

A bill currently before the Japanese Diet (parliament) would ease restrictions on visits to death row prisoners.

A recent report by The Los Angeles Times (see the ADP post here) painted a picture of prisoners waiting in their cells - some for decades - for the guards to come and take them to be hanged.

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