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Guards were required to address inmates as “sir” to reduce violence in the Japanese prison

Guards at a harsh Japanese prison have been ordered to address inmates as “sir” in an effort to curb abuse.

Guards at Nagoya Prison are now required to address inmates by their last name followed by “san,” which directly translates to “honourable sir.”

The guards have also been ordered to stop using the terms convict and “yatsura,” a derogatory term meaning “you men.”

The use of derogatory terms reflected “weak awareness of human rights,” according to a Justice Department panel.

The changes took effect in August and are the result of an investigation into reports that surfaced last year detailing physical and verbal abuse by officers against inmates.

The investigation eventually found that 22 guards assaulted or otherwise assaulted three male prisoners 419 times between November 2021 and September 2022.

The newspaper Asahi reported about 100 incidents where guards kicked prisoners, punched them in the face, grabbed them by the neck or sprayed them with an alcohol disinfectant. It is believed that at least one of the inmates has learning disabilities.

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However, guards claimed they had acted alone when the prisoners failed to follow instructions. Ten of the guards now face criminal charges and possible prison terms.

The Mainichi newspaper said many of the inmates at the prison are uncomfortable with the new regime, and some said they had become accustomed to being spoken to rudely.

The use of more polite forms of address is already being used in Japan’s women’s prisons, and if the Nagoya experiment helps reduce violence, the ministry says it will consider introducing similar rules throughout the prison system.

Nagoya Prison is considered one of the toughest in Japan, with guards previously found guilty of killing two inmates and seriously wounding another in 2001 and 2002.

Seven guards were also convicted of a series of assaults on prisoners, including killing one man by pointing a high-pressure fire hose at his anus, causing him to die of bacterial shock. The guards received only suspended sentences.

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Nagoya Prison is home to members of the Kodo-kai ‘yakuza’ gang, one of the wealthiest in the country, which earns most of its income from white-collar crime.

Headquartered in Nagoya but active in at least 18 prefectures, the Kodo-kai earns most of its income from white-collar crime, such as kickbacks for Japanese construction.

The Japanese police have classified the Kodo-kai as a quasi-terrorist organization.

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