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Forensic Mental Health Law Reform in Japan: From Criminal Warehousing to Broad-Spectrum Specialist Services?


David N. Weisstub


York University - Osgoode Hall Law School

Terry Carney


University of Sydney - Faculty of Law


International Journal of Law and Psychiatry, Vol. 29, No. 2, pp. 86-100, 2006
Sydney Law School Research Paper No. 08/05

Abstract:     
Since the 1980s Japan has undergone a number of mental health law reforms culminating in the 2005 forensic law. This added to its enactments on involuntary commitment, long-term aged care and substitute decision making, bringing Japan into focus as an industrialized state now possessed of a full package of civil and forensic provisions. This article seeks to demonstrate that the new forensic law cannot achieve its own stated goals without seeking to put into place financial and administrative supports aimed to integrate the myriad of patient populations that will be inevitably affected by the new forensic system. In order to avoid the widespread syndrome that has already been experienced internationally of warehousing mentally ill offenders in jails, it is critical that the Japanese government develop effective and culturally sensitive techniques for dealing with low risk populations through a diversionary process. Furthermore, although the legislation addresses serious crimes, it is imperative that policies be put into place to avoid directing young offenders, violent patients from the general hospital system, the developmentally handicapped, already convicted persons found in hospital settings and problematic cases in the correctional system, to the new forensic units established by the legislation. It is only though contemplating unintended outcomes of the legislation that the Japanese government will be able to avoid the ongoing stigmatization and prolonged institutionalization of mentally ill populations. Despite apparent cultural differences internationally vetted human rights requirements must be properly protected, not only in the forensic context, but throughout the mental health system at large. The coordination of services and the development of specialty training are necessary conditions for the realization of improved and humane conditions for mentally ill persons in Japan.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 32

Keywords: Mental health, law reform, forensic law

JEL Classification: K10, K30, K32, I18, I11

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Date posted: January 3, 2008  

Suggested Citation

Weisstub, David N. and Carney, Terry, Forensic Mental Health Law Reform in Japan: From Criminal Warehousing to Broad-Spectrum Specialist Services?. International Journal of Law and Psychiatry, Vol. 29, No. 2, pp. 86-100, 2006; Sydney Law School Research Paper No. 08/05. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1080039

Contact Information

David N. Weisstub (Contact Author)
York University - Osgoode Hall Law School ( email )
4700 Keele Street
Toronto, Ontario M3J 1P3
Canada
Terry Carney
University of Sydney - Faculty of Law ( email )
Faculty of Law Building, F10
The University of Sydney
Sydney, NSW 2006
Australia
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