By ATOM Legal Professional Corporation English speaking lawyers in Japan

First of all, what is detention vs imprisonment?

Both detention centers and prison are similar in that they imprison people. However, detention facilities and prisons have different jurisdictions, which can result in operational differences.

Detention centers are under the jurisdiction of the police. Detention centers are located at each police station, as controlled by the police. More than 98% of all arrests and detentions are sent to detention centers. Thus, there is an overwhelming number of detention centers.

On the other hand, prisons are under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Justice. There are no investigators in prison. Most arrested and detained individuals will start off by being detained in detention centers but may be transferred to prisons if they are charged and a criminal trial begins.

The fact that there is no investigating police officer in the same facility is a great advantage for the prisoner, but prisons often lack cooling and heating facilities in comparison to detention centers. In addition, there are places where it is difficult to have flexibility when having a lawyer visit you — both prisons and detention centers have their pros and cons.

What is life like in detention centers?

For the first few days after the arrest, the arrested individual will busy with being interrogated, and as a result, life in the detention center can start off being very stressful.

Once they get used to it, more spare time is given, and thus with more freedom comes less stress. Also, as there are typically more people in rooms in detention centers (compared to prison), seeking advice and companionship from others is easier in detention centers. However, unlike prison, detention centers are not places for long-term detention, so people in the same room change quickly and strong relationships can rarely be formed.

Japanese rice on big wooden bowl Premium Photo

Meals in detention centers are regularly checked by a nutritionist. An example of a standard meal at a detention center is as follows:

Breakfast: Rice, natto, thick-fried egg, fried bean curd cake, preserved food boiled in soy sauce, miso soup, and pickled vegetables.
Lunch: Rice, croquettes, curry, stir-fried vegetables, salad, and pickled vegetables.
Dinner: Rice, grilled fish (i.e. salmon), omelet, shumai dumplings, stir-fried vegetable miso, beans, and pickled vegetables.

In addition to the meals mentioned above, you can also purchase special meals at your own expense. Examples of food you can buy include fried noodles, curry and rice, bean-jam pancake (dorayaki), and yogurt. You can get cash from relatives or friends when they visit you, and use it to get these special meals.

You can take a bath once every five days in detention centers in Japan. In addition, automatic hand disinfection devices and humidifiers are being installed in many detention facilities to prevent infections such as influenza. Being able to take a bath only once every five days can be quite difficult for some people. Unfortunately, with the exception of special circumstances, it is difficult for lawyers to argue for more baths for their client.

There is exercise time, and you can exercise outdoors every day. You have 30 minutes a day for outdoor exercise, and even for more than an hour if you wish for more exercise. Other than exercise, bathing, and visits, you will rarely get the chance to go outside your detention room.

How can I avoid detention?

A public prosecutor makes a request for detention, and a judge makes a decision on detention. Therefore, to be granted non-detainment, you must (1) prove to the public prosecutor in charge of the case that detention is unnecessary and prevent the detention request, and (2) prove to the judge that detention is unnecessary and prevent the detention decision from being made before the official decision is made.

Even if a detention decision is issued and you are detained, (3) a quasi-appeal against the decision can be made immediately, and (4) if there is a victim in the case, an out-of-court settlement can be reached and a request for revocation of detention can be made on the grounds that an out-of-court settlement has been reached.

This page is intended to be used for informational purposes only and should not be a substitute for obtaining professional legal advice.

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