Sep 05, 2016

    Japan seeks nurses for rising number of senior prisoners


    WITH the number of elderly jailbirds surpassing 6,000 and growing, some prisons in Japan are seeking full-time nursing care workers, including semi-qualified ones, to look after this group whose bulk are likely to die behind bars.

    "Prisons have become like nursing care facilities," the Yomiuri Shimbun quoted a justice ministry official as saying. A higher proportion of prisoners now suffer from chronic diseases like hypertension and diabetes, given that more seniors are being jailed.

    Also, it is estimated that about 17 per cent of Japan's prisoners aged 65 or older might have dementia.

    Given that Japan is short of 400,000 nursing care professionals as it ages rapidly, the government has authorised prisons to hire people with only a certain amount of nursing training.

    It has waived a rule that the employees must be certified.

    The demand is urgent as prison wardens now often have to double up as nurses, reported the Sanyo Shimbun.

    According to the ministry, aged prisoners are growing in number, making up more than 10 per cent of fresh convicts last year compared to less than 2 per cent in 1989.

    There are also four times more criminal offences by the group in 2013 than in 1993, reported Bloomberg.

    At the same time, recidivism is now more common among Japan's hoary, with one out of four breaking the law within two years after release.

    According to surveys, "finding no meaning in life", "inadequate social measures" and "being lonely outside" are some of the reasons driving the relapse among the elderly.

    Criminologist Koichi Hamai from Kyoto's Ryukoku University noted that there are now more violent crimes by the elderly, leading to more of them serving longer sentences.

    While the government is determined to ease the nursing burden of prisons, it can help only 32 facilities for now, where elderly make up more than 20 per cent of inmates.

    The other 38 prisons would have to find other ways to cope.