Ageing in prison – a sad tale from Japan

Even if you don’t understand Japanese, the disturbing pictures in this programme tell a sad story. Although this has no real relevance to marketing, the programme offers a sobering insight to the social consequences of an ageing population we will all need to get used to.

According to this article in CNNgo, some of Japan’s prisons are introducing rubber floors, padded walls and other elderly-friendly measures to protect the increasing numbers of old-age criminals who are being locked up. Back in 2006, U.K. newspaper The Independent reported on the ‘grey crime’ wave sweeping Japan as the number of misdemeanours commited by citizens over 65 was on the increase. This NTV programme reports on the logical conclusion, a growing elderly population living in jails across the country.

Around 12 percent of prisoners were retired citizens by 2006, most having commited minor crimes such as theft and shoplifting. That may not be quite on the same scale as China, where many elderly people are now enjoying themselves a bit too much for the likes of the law, but with more old age inmates than any other developed nation — four times more than the United Kingdom for example — Japan’s problems of a fast-greying nation are becoming intensified.

The NTV report visits Kurobane prison in Tochigi, which is specially developed for patients who are often infirm and need medical care. Unlike regular convicts who seek parole, the majority choose to stay at the prison as they have nowhere else to go. With the stigma of having been in jail on their records, it is likely that their family will shun them should they be released, and that could leave them below the poverty line — along with 19 million others

Once in the prison, the inmates are given tasks such as creating cases for lightbulbs, making luggage tags and knitting slippers. Prison officials often act as day carers and some younger inmates are also given tasks to take care of the elderly who are unable to walk or feed themselves. Onomichi prison in Hiroshima is also checked out by NTV, and actually specializes in care for the elderly with rubber floors for those with weak bladders, padded walls for those who may slip or fall, and special food for those who can’t chew.

Alzheimers in prison? What a way to go.