Daniel Halliday
Jan 28 · Last update 1 mo. ago.
What is behind the growing number of older people in Japan’s prisons?
This statistic has been making the news for nearly a year, but can it be explained by an ever growing ageing population, or is the Japanese welfare system really at a crisis point that makes prison a favourable reality compared to being elderly and poor in Japanese society?
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Just a symptom of an ageing populace
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An Indicator of a failed welfare system
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A familial welfare system history in a changing society
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Just a symptom of an ageing populace

The growth in the statistics actually can be explained by a growth in the proportion of older people in society; the more older people there are in any given society the higher number of people in prison will unavoidably be older also. Just as some people never give up on bad habits in their lifetime, some people continue to commit crime into their elderly life. Reports have found that Japanese prisons have high recidivism rates, with 90% of prisoners in Tottori prison being re-offenders and 10% of the total population being over 65, indicating this cannot simply be the case of elderly people pushed into prison life due to a lack of alternatives.

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An Indicator of a failed welfare system

Low social spending in Japan has lead to a crippled welfare system that cannot account for or deal with the rapid rate of Japan’s ageing society. Japan spends less on social welfare than even the United States and far lower than the majority of European countries, a brutal reality for some in the world’s third largest economy. As a result of this many are falling through the gaps of what should to be a comprehensive social safety net. In this sad situation when prisoners are treated better than those on government welfare, anyone would be more likely to shoplift than to try and cope in this failing system. criticalgerontology.com/japans-ageing-prison

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A familial welfare system history in a changing society

This growing statistic is actually the result of people being left behind as a result of a historical familial welfare system in a changing society. Japan’s welfare system is not failing just a system that is no longer suited to Japan’s changing societal needs, with the combination of low birth rates, high life expectancy, rising age of marriage, and growing proportion of unmarried women, familial support is not as strong a force in Japan as it once was. The government should be trying to address the falling population or will thus need to address problems such as this by reforming welfare and care for the growing number of elderly people without the traditional familial safety net the government have come to expect.

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