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Society Fuchu Prison and its foreign inmates


Unswerving cyclist
14 Mar 2002
Fuchū Prison (府中刑務所), in Tokyo's western city of Fuchu, is Japan's largest all-male penitentiary. It also houses the country's largest population of foreign prisoners, and as such, it is taking measures to accommodate them regarding language, culture, food, and lifestyle. In 1995, the prison established an international division—the first in Japan—to support the lives of foreign inmates. The division is tasked with matters ranging from interpretation to investigating the problematic treatment of foreign inmates behind bars.

As of December last year, Fuchū Prison housed 353 foreign prisoners representing 58 nationalities and speaking 52 languages. Chinese nationals make up the largest population at 20.1%, followed by Vietnamese prisoners at 17.8%. Notable foreign inmates in the past reportedly include Michael Taylor, the former Green Beret who helped auto tycoon Carlos Ghosn escape from Japan, and Richard Hinds, who was convicted of strangling to death an Irish exchange student in Tokyo in 2012. Most of the foreign inmates have been convicted of crimes related to drugs (57.8%), followed by robbery (12.7%) and theft (less than 10%). Meanwhile, the top crime committed by Japanese inmates is theft, followed by drug-related crime and fraud.


Despite the steady rise in Japan's foreign population, the number of foreign prisoners — categorized as "F" to distinguish them from Japanese inmates — has been declining for more than a decade, according to Justice Ministry data. As of December 2022, there were 1,401 foreign prisoners, comprising 4.1% of the total prisoners. In 2022, prisons received 400 new foreign convicts, considerably lower than the peak of 1,350 in 2006. One reason for the decline is Japan's 2003 ratification of the Council of Europe Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons, which allows foreign prisoners to serve two-thirds of their time in their home countries.

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