From how often we talk about food and hot springs here on RocketNews24, you’ve probably surmised that, as a nation, Japan is pretty into bathing and dining. Those passions aren’t exclusive to law-abiding members of Japanese society, either, as a recent survey of inmate complaints at prisons in Japan found several focused on meals and baths, with requests for better curry and longer soaks in the tub.
Japan’s Penal Institution Visiting Committee recently released its latest report based on observations and feedback from inmates at correctional facilities across the nation, with the data having been collected in 2014.
In many ways, Japan is a foodie’s paradise, with a rich culinary culture that makes it easy to find great meals even in remote, rural locations or budget-priced casual restaurants. But those same high standards for flavor and ambiance aren’t necessarily present inside the nation’s jailhouse dining halls. Some inmates grumbled about their food not being warm enough during the winter months, and one older convict was unhappy having to peel his own oranges, which he says is a challenge for incarcerated seniors.
A more specific complaint came from one of the wards of Fukui Prison, who told the Visiting Committee:
“The curry is watery. I want them to care enough to add some starch, so it won’t be so runny.”
Sparingly enough, the Ministry of Justice’s Bureau of Corrections was receptive to his request, and has since started looking into adding starch to its curry to produce a more substantial texture. Still, an executive spokesperson for the Bureau insisted that there was nothing necessarily wrong with the prior method of making the dish. “All food is tasted by the cooking staff before being served to inmates, and I’ve sampled the curry as well. Compared to what would be served in an ordinary cafeteria, it isn’t bad. As for the proper texture, a lot of that depends on the individual preferences of the person eating it.”
Meanwhile, at Obihiro Prison, the problem for one convict wasn’t the food itself, but rather how he had to eat it.
“When they serve pudding or yogurt, I want a spoon. [Without one] I have to stir it up with my chopsticks, then put my mouth on the cup and drink it.”
Our more inventive readers may have already spotted the problem, though, in that the difference between a plastic or metal spoon and a plastic or metal shiv is just a bit of frame-snapping force applied at the right angle. But once again, the wardens were receptive to this desire, and as of the end of last December, Obihiro Prison has authorized the supply of spoons made of paper so that inmates can enjoy their prison pudding in the same civilized manner as people on the outside.
▼ Although honestly, “prison pudding” sounds like it should be referring to something much more disgusting than having to eat your desserts in an unorthodox style.
If mealtime is one of the few things prisoners have to look forward to, bath time is surely another. At Fuchu Prison, even those without a clean rap sheet expressed a desire for more frequent or longer chances to wash up, as shown by these two inmate requests.
“I want bath time extended from 15 to 30 minutes.”
“I want to be given the opportunity to bathe more than two or three times a week.”
Currently, the Ministry of Justice stipulates that inmates must be allowed to bathe at least twice a week, but anything beyond that seems to be at the discretion of the individual institutions. Prisons that are reluctant to grant requests for expanded bathing privileges cite the limited capacity of their current bath facilities. Expanding them would require more space, new construction, and also a greater number of guards to keep watch on a larger number of bathers spread across a larger area, all of which would necessitate increased budgets.
Nevertheless, some prisoners’ rights advocates argue that investing in such improvements would be justifiable on the grounds that the kinder treatment of inmates would aid in their rehabilitation and help produce a desire to contribute to lawful society upon their release. Whether such an argument will be persuasive in the law-abiding, order-craving environment of Japanese society at large, though, is yet to be seen.