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“The politics of increasing punitiveness and the rising populism in Japanese criminal justice policy”

Miyazawa, Setsuo
June 4, 2015

Source: (2008) Punishment & Society. 10(1): 47–77

The purpose of this article is (1) to establish that increasing punitiveness characterizes
criminal justice policies in Japan and (2) to explain this trend in terms of the penal
populism promoted by crime victims and supporting politicians. This article first
examines newspaper articles to illuminate the increasingly punitive character of recent
criminal justice policies in Japan in terms of both legislation and judicial decisions.
The next section discusses the main contributing factors behind this trend and its
public acceptance. The next two sections discuss two related issues: the public’s subjective
sense of security, and the lack of a role for empirical criminologists in criminal
justice policy making in Japan. The concluding section compares the Japanese and
Anglo-American situations and argues that the same penal populism seen in Anglo-
American countries is rapidly rising in Japan, and that public distrust of government
has ironically increased the state’s investigative, prosecutorial, and sentencing powers
in Japan. This article closes with the conjecture that police, prosecutors, and judges are
unlikely to relinquish their increased power in the event that they gain the public’s trust
and equally unlikely in the event of a change of the ruling party.


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