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Friday, June 29, 2012

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Preventable?: Prayers are said for two pedestrians a day after they were stabbed to death in downtown Osaka on June 10. KYODO

Slayings tied to inmate rehab limits

Recidivism lower among parolees than full-termers lacking followup


OSAKA — Kyozo Isohi, who was arrested after stabbing two passersby to death on a busy Osaka street June 10, reportedly told police his actions were intended to incur the death penalty as he couldn't bring himself to commit suicide.

"I was at a loss over how to make a living, so I decided to kill myself," police quoted Isohi, 36, as saying. "I just couldn't go through with it, though, so I thought that if I killed some people, I would be sentenced to death."

As he had only been released from prison the previous month after serving time for a narcotics felony, Isohi's case suggests authorities should start focusing on how to reduce recidivism among convicts who are freed unconditionally and not helped to reintegrate into society — unlike those released on parole.

At present, convicts who have served their full sentences fall beyond the scope of any monitoring or oversight. Paroled felons, on the other hand, are placed under the guardianship of probation officers.

According to investigators and eyewitnesses, Isohi left Niigata Prison on May 24 and visited a probation office in Utsunomiya, Tochigi Prefecture, the same day. After telling an officer that he had no home to go to, he was informed about a local privately run rehab clinic for drug addicts.

He stayed there briefly, but left June 8. He later visited a relative in the city of Nasushiobara, Niigata Prefecture, and told her that he felt compelled to leave the institution as the living conditions reminded him of prison. He also asked if she knew of any job openings.

He later told the relative that a friend had called him about a job in Osaka and he left Nasushiobara on June 9. The following day, he fatally stabbed a man and a woman in downtown Osaka.

In terms of timing, Isohi's case is similar to that of Tatsumi Tateyama, who is currently on death row for raping and killing a female university student in Matsudo, Chiba Prefecture, in October 2009.

The murder occurred a month after Tateyama, 51, was released from prison after serving out a prior sentence, and like Isohi, he did not have a fixed address at the time of the killing. Tateyama is appealing his conviction.

Justice Minister Makoto Taki has admitted "the (current) system doesn't readily allow for followups on convicts who are released (unconditionally) after serving time."

Employment appears to play a critical role in preventing recidivism: More than 70 percent of recidivist felons are unemployed, according to Justice Ministry data.

Convicts released on parole find it relatively easier to land work than those freed after serving full sentences, but 30 percent still end up back behind bars within five years, according to the government's 2011 white paper on crime.

However, the rate climbs to 53.4 percent for those released unconditionally, the white paper said.

Although about 10,000 businesses were registered with probation offices nationwide as "associate employers" willing to hire ex-convicts as of April, a Justice Ministry official said that while the list is steadily growing, the recruitment rate is not, because of the tough economic climate.

In response, the government aims to institute a system that would waive incarceration for first-time offenders and those convicted of drug offenses, who instead would be placed on probation and monitored for part of their sentences.

But some feel the problem goes far deeper than the economy.

"While many are struggling to find jobs in the tough economy, I think society is not that keen to care for those who have been released from prison," a probation officer said. "To reduce crime, however, support is essential and I hope the public will show some understanding."

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