Criminal Justice In Japan The Issue Of Forced Confessions

Criminal Justice In Japan: The Issue Of Forced Confessions

Pellegrini (2007), in an article titled “Forced Confessions and the Japanese Justice System,” attributes Japan’s high conviction rate of 99.9% to forced confessions. He describes how Japan’s fast economic growth rate and modernization has not been reflected in its implementation of a fair criminal justice system. By giving accounts of persons who were forced to sign confessions, the author illustrates the extent of this problem to a scale where the media has even made it known to the United Nations.

Pellegrini describes how the Japanese justice system is heavily reliant on confessions which make up 86.6 percent of the 99.9 percent conviction rate. No other country in the world has such a high confession rate like Japan. In Japan confessions are important since they are seen by both the court and the society as a major step to rehabilitation. Most prosecutors will prefer to handle cases involving a confession since they are not often required to disclose how the evidence was arrived at. Confessions, voluntary or forced, are an integral part of the Japanese criminal justice system due to a serious lack of, or determination for, crime-scene investigative skills by the police. Very rarely are witnesses sought or statements, pictures and blood samples taken when a confession can be coerced from the suspect. Forced confessions in the Japanese legal system are safeguarded by the establishment of Daiyo Kangoku which translates to substitute prison. These substitute prisons, located police boxes called Koban, are very “effective confession generators” (Pellegrini, 2007). A suspect can be detained in the substitute prisons for up to 24 days without the assistance of a lawyer. Access to a lawyer is only possible at the suspect’s expense which most people can not afford. The police can further make a formal request to the court for an extension of confinement period by an additional ten days to get what they want from the accused. Interestingly, such requests have often been granted 99 percent of the time. Pellegrini concludes by describing the steps being taken to end this injustice especially through a movie titled I Just Didn’t Do It. He states that no matter how educated those involved in the Japanese criminal justice system are, undemocratic practices by police, prosecutors, and judges will always be an impediment to Japan’s socio-cultural development.

Comparison with the United States justice system

In the United States, the Fifth Amendment offers protection to all citizens from law enforcement acts that would deprive them “of life, liberty or property without due process of the law” (Amar & Lettow, 1995, p. 857). The Fifth Amendment further protects witnesses and suspects from being forcefully requested to incriminate themselves through forced confessions or other coercive admissions of guilt. In the United States forced confessions can not work since any suspect has a choice of pleading the Fifth which gives him or her the right to refuse to answer a question because the response might be self incriminating. The legal provision for protecting suspects from self-incrimination in the United States was put in place to prevent the use of torture in extracting confessions as is the case in Japan. The U.S justice system further protects suspects from self-incrimination in the Miranda rights which offer the right to remain silent. Through the Fifth Amendment, evidence obtained illegally by law enforcement officers is not admissible in court. For example, any confession that was not preceded by a Miranda caution where it was needed can not be admitted as evidence in court. Unlike in the Japanese justice system, the use of forced confessions to make convictions would be almost impossible in the United States.


Amar, A. R. & Lettow, R. B. (1995). Fifth Amendment First Principles: The Self IncriminationClause. Michigan Law Review (The Michigan Law Review Association), 93(5), 857–928.

Pellegrini, C. (2007). Forced confessions and the Japanese justice system. Retrieved January 31,2011, from