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Thursday, Oct. 25, 2012
Monitoring sex offenders
A by-law went into force in Osaka Prefecture on Oct. 1 that requires people who have completed their sentences for sex crimes targeting children to report their addresses and other information to the prefectural governor for five years. Violators will face a fine of up to ¥50,000. The Osaka prefectural government says the intention of the by-law is not to keep tabs on sex offenders but to facilitate their rehabilitation. If sex offenders wish, they can get support from clinical psychologists and social workers, and help in finding employment.
Because sex offenders have a high rate of recidivism, measures to prevent sex crimes and to help socially rehabilitate sex offenders are vital. But at the same time, efforts must be made to ensure that these legal measures do not violate the privacy of ex-convicts. Follow-up studies should also be made to gauge their effectiveness at preventing recidivism.
The Osaka prefectural by-law was first proposed by Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto while he was Osaka governor. Under the by-law, sex offenders who have finished their prison terms must provide information including their addresses, the sex crimes they were convicted of, and the date they completed their sentences to the governor for five years following their release from prison. With the consent of sex offenders, the prefectural government will ask the Justice Ministry to verify the accuracy of the provided criminal history. But there is no guarantee that sex offenders who comply will be entirely truthful.
The central and local governments need to coordinate existing measures for sex offenders. In fiscal 2006, the Justice Ministry started a program to control sexual desire based on cognitive-behavioral therapy for inmates and those released on probation. The National Police Agency in 2011 began sending police officers for regular interviews with convicted sex offenders who have given their consent. This system covers ex-convicts who sexually assaulted children younger than 13 year old. The Osaka by-law covers those who sexually attacked children younger than 18 years old. In Osaka Prefecture, program overlaps may mean that sex offenders will meet both police officers and clinical psychologists.
Early in 2011, the Miyagi prefectural government considered enacting a by-law to electronically monitor the movements of sex offenders, but the attempt was shelved in the wake of the 3/11 disasters. Public discussions should be held on whether it is appropriate for individual local governments to enact such measures or whether they should be enacted nationwide under the guidance of the Justice Ministry.
A nationwide unified approach to monitoring and rehabilitating convicted sex offenders would be more effective than piecemeal local efforts by ensuring that convicted sex offenders would be monitored no matter where they live, and by eliminating the overlapping of programs. The correction and rehabilitation sections of the Justice Ministry should take the initiative and work closely with local governments to establish an effective sex-offender policy.