Readers in Council,
The Japan Times,
5-4, Shibaura 4-chome,
Minato-ku, Tokyo 108-0023
The frustration of Poles described in the short AP story “Poland in uproar as killer pedophile freed” (Japan Times, Friday, February 14, 2014) about a murdering pedophile recently released from prison in that country is understandable. But I am conflicted about sympathizing. The editorials “Tracking former sex offenders” (Japan Times, Monday, February 28, 2011) and “Monitoring sex offenders” (Japan Times, Thursday, October 25, 2012), and the Kyodo news story “Hashimoto eyes sex offender ID ordinance,” (Japan Times, Wednesday, September 7, 2011) show that the same concerns - about the possibility of continued risk from freed pedophiles and the requirement that they report regularly to the police so that the Justice Ministry can keep a close track of them even after serving their full sentences - exist here.
This is the problem I have with the Polish dilemma: the felon in question served his full 25-year sentence. He served it. Fully. The state imposed punishment and he took it. Then at the expiration of the punishment he was appropriately freed. On what grounds can the State ask for more? If he commits new crimes he will be re-arrested and re-prosecuted, and there will certainly be bitter recriminations about his recidivism. But until and unless that happens the fact is that the man served his time. End of story. Imposing new sanctions now would be inappropriate. The rebuttal is that pedophilia is a mental disease from which people do not recover, so that continued - even lifelong - supervision is appropriate and even necessary. But I reject the idea of punishing, or supervising people for criminal behavior they might commit. The principle of liberty requires us only to be punitively concerned with the criminal behavior they do commit, and the thoughts in their minds are out of bounds.
What is at play here is the never ending question of the relationship between the state/society (the collective) and the individual. Almost always I sympathize with the individual against interference by the manipulations of the State, and I am always suspicious about the way the State deals with criminal deviance by citizens and how it reports crime statistics, especially in Japan where penal processes are shrouded in considerable opacity . The State exists for the pleasure of the individual, after all, not the other way around. Finally, I believe that prison is primarily about punishment, not rehabilitation and those who focus on its rehabilitating aspect do so mostly to feel better about themselves. “Correction” and “rehabilitation” sound good, but they are mostly empty words.