View Full Version : Obedience to Authority: Japanese Jails

John Lindsey
13th August 2000, 03:35
By Kevin Heldman

TOKYO (APBnews.com) -- After completing six years in the Japanese prison system, Johnny Crittenden sits in the interview cell of an immigration detention center awaiting deportation to the United States. A guard at his side takes notes on everything said as Crittenden explains why he's suing the Japanese government for abuse.

In 1994, Crittenden, a former U.S. Navy enlisted man once stationed in Japan, was convicted of raping a Japanese woman and attempting to rape another. He was sent to Fuchu prison, the largest maximum-security lockup in Japan and the one that houses all foreigners who don't speak Japanese.

During his sentence, Crittenden spent 4 1/2 years in solitary confinement for refusing to cut his hair, which he kept long because of his Rastafarian religion. He said for eight hours each weekday, he was forced to sit in his cell folding paper bags, prohibited from standing or moving his eyes. After his release, his lawyers subpoenaed his records and discovered that he'd been held in a psychiatric ward, though he claims to have never seen a doctor.

Sitting on the box

Chobatsu literally means punishment, but the word commonly refers to the practice of putting prisoners in isolation and forcing them to sit on a small plywood box with a 5-inch ledge in the rear that makes it painful to lean back.

During chobatsu, a prisoner's cell is completely emptied and the windows are covered. He is made to sit rigidly on the box, knees together, elbows tucked in, hands flat on his thighs, feet on the floor, staring at the wall for 12 hours a day. An inmate can get off the box for meals but must get back on immediately. He can take a shower after 10 days. Guards shout if they see even one finger out of alignment.

Crittenden said he had to sit like this for 20 days.

The Japanese contend that the strict discipline and isolation are meant to elicit remorse and prompt prisoners to reflect and change their ways.

Several former prisoners said chobatsu was administered for just about any infraction, from opening their eyes to talking in the factory bathroom

Read the complete story at: http://www.apbnews.com/cjsystem/behind_bars/1999/12/09/japan/index.html