Japanese criminal justice: was reintegrative shaming a chimera?

Tom Ellis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Despite its post-war reputation as one of the most crime-free industrialized countries Japan has a rapidly increasing recorded crime rate and corresponding falling clearance rate in police statistics. In 1998, only 19 per cent of the Japanese public thought crime was getting worse, but by 2005 this had increased to 48 per cent. The first part of this article, therefore, examines statistical records to assess the public's perception of increasing crime. Recent evidence (Hamai and Ellis, 2006), summarised here, shows that in the late 1990s, press coverage of police scandals provoked key policing policy changes. These changes resulted in a sudden drastic increase in recorded crime, due to the increase in hitherto unreported and less serious forms of crime, and a coincident dramatic decrease in clearance rates. The second part of the article then examines, in more depth, how the myth of the collapse of secure society was created and has been maintained. The main focus is on the inaccurate media coverage of crime and the growing influence of the victims' movement. The article then considers the impact of increasing punitivism along with an analysis of changes in the prison population.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)25-46
Number of pages22
JournalPunishment & Society
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2008


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