In Japan, there are currently 3,440 female inmates confined to seven correctional facilities which all together are built to hold 3,342 women. These statistics come from a spokesperson for the newly opened Saijo branch of Matsuyama Prison, which was built to address this overcrowding problem.

The new prison reportedly offers various facilities and services to cater to women’s needs, but most striking by far are the doors, barred windows and furniture all over the penitentiary, which appear to have been painted a soft pink color, as if to remind the inmates that they’re ladies first and convicted criminals second.

The prison’s general manager, Hidehito Nakahira says that the prison was designed with the inmates’ comfort in mind. In addition to lessening the distance some detainees need to be from home, better facilities help them focus on work and rehabilitation while also allowing guards to supervise more easily and safely.

In addition to the pink color scheme, the prison also has a special area for prisoners with children under a year old. There is also a gynecology department and the majority of the guards are women. The facility was completed on 18 August at a cost of about 160 million yen (US$1.5M).

A prison spokesperson said that the originally white doors were changed to pink in order to relieve the inmates’ feelings of oppression. This move prompted many news readers to ask why, wondering why a prison of all places should take such steps.

“Are they stupid?”
“There’s a need to relieve the feeling of oppression?”
“Don’t waste my hard-earned tax money on this crap!”
“It looks so cozy someone might want to commit a crime to go there.”
“It’s a matter of time before there’s a beauty and nail salon there too.”
“Discrimination! Men’s prisons should also get pink walls!”

Clearly many of these net users feel that prisons ought to be places of punishment rather than rehabilitation. However, as Dostoyevsky once said: “You can judge a society by how well it treats its prisoners.” In this way I guess we can say Japan is pretty caring and accommodating to people’s needs, but at the same time perhaps a bit sexist and patronizing.

Source: Yomiuri Online via Itai News (Japanese), Japan Crush (English)
Video and screenshots: YouTube – Ehime Shimbunsha