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

By Setsuo Miyazawa / Punishment and Society, on 1 January 2008

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.

  • Document type Article
  • Countries list Japan
  • Themes list Networks,