Thursday, January 19, 2012

Interview: Prison life in Japan for non-Japanese

Erwin Vermeulen from Holland is the only man in jail today fighting for the rights of dolphins to live. Erwin faces trial next week in Wakayama, Japan. On January 26, 2012, the Japanese government will put our friend on trial for allegedly pushing a dolphin trainer in Taiji, Japan.

He has already served 36 days in a Japanese jail, and faces up to two years. Some say more people will come to Taiji to accept being jailed for dolphins--a sort of Dolphin Disobedience. I compare Erwin to a modern Henry David Thoreau.

What is life like? Erwin has not been allowed any visitors besides a very competent team of three lawyers. To understand what Erwin faces, we have interviewed a man who spent two years in a Japanese jail. We will call him Jay. He claims he was innocent. I believe him and his friends and family believe him, but he still had to spend two years of his life in prison in Japan. This is an introduction to Jay's story. We hope that it will help you to better understand what Erwin faces.

An Interview with Jay: Prison Life in Japan for non-Japanese
Outside help and support came via letters or any money or reading materials I needed. There's not much else friends can do other than those three.
Daily life in jail is usually spent writing letters, reading and talking to others in your room (if he is not in a solitary cell). It's quite a monotonous routine every day. They have a tight schedule of serving 3 meals a day, delivering mail everyday and supplies once a week that you can buy if you have money. You are allowed to keep your supplies and books in the room with you. In jail you wash your own clothes in the sink with soap at designated times of the day. This is all done at the big prefecture jail though not at the small city jails but I'm assuming that big and more accommodating jail was where he was moved to.
Pre-trial can be stressful because of the language barrier and also because frequently the translator can easily make mistakes (SO IT IS EXTREMELY IMPORTANT TO MAKE SURE YOUR TRANSLATOR UNDERSTANDS YOU AND WHAT YOU WANT).
Immediate post-trial involves being swiftly moved to your next destination (immigration or prison)
Doing time involves working everyday at some monotonous job standing all day with one 10 minute break and a lunch break eating in a cafeteria. Unless you get a solitary room you will be sleeping with a roomful of others (up to 13) on a futon. Personal item are kept in the room and television is turned on a few hours a night. Any medicine (this also applies to jail) needs to be specifically requested to the guards and if a serious illness arises then you will be taken to the doctor onsite. All taken in though Japanese prisons are quite safe compared to other countries. Rarely are there fights (stabbings are unheard of) and illicit drugs are never seen. It's basically like high school with a lot of psychological mind games and talking behind your back because your a foreigner (what the Japanese call ijime).
All I have is some resentment that comes back once in a while at the times I choose to hold my tongue when other inmates talked shit. I did learn how to be more patient though.
Please ask if you want to know any more specifics. One place to ask is the Facebook site: Taiji Dolphin Action Group.

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