May 14, 2021

HWR calls for the release of prisoners at risk from the spread of COVID-19 in Japan



The organization Human Rights Watch (HRW) asked the Japanese government on Thursday to significantly reduce the number of people in prison or detention centers, places at high risk for a COVID-19 outbreak that could be “deadly.”

“An outbreak of COVID-19 in jails in Japan could be deadly, given the increasing proportion of elderly inmates and the shortage of doctors and nurses for medical care in prison,” said the director in this Asian country of Human Rights Watch, Kanae Doi.

In a letter sent to Justice Minister Masako Mori, the NGO asks to release as many prisoners as possible for minor crimes, such as theft or use of narcotics, and those in risk groups, or consider alternatives to incarceration such as suspended prison. , “to better protect inmates and staff.”

“Japan’s prison and detention system currently lacks adequate capacity to identify, test, treat, and quarantine prisoners, detainees, and COVID-19 infected personnel. Many prisoners in Japan often share single rooms, creating a serious risk of contagion, “he said.

The NGO’s request comes after at least ten SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus positives were detected this April in penitentiaries in Osaka, Tokyo and Hokkaido, which led to the quarantining of dozens of detainees.

Health care in Japan’s prisons is understaffed and under pressure. According to data collected by HRW, in 2013 there were 260 doctors working full time in Japanese penitentiaries, below the 332 required by the Ministry of Justice.

“Being imprisoned or detained in Japan should not effectively become a death sentence for COVID-19,” said Doi.

The Japanese authorities have so far recorded more than 12,600 cases of coronaviruses and some 300 deaths in their country, including the cases of the Diamond Princess and Atlantic Coast cruises.

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