Tuesday, December 30, 2008

More on Jim Webb

Yesterday I wrote about Sen. James Webb's goal of reforming the prison system in the U.S. The Washington Post article describing Webb's goal referenced a story Webb wrote for Parade magazine back in 1984:

A journalist at the time, he was working on an article about Ed Arnett, an American who had spent two years in Fuchu Prison for possession of marijuana. In a January 1984 Parade magazine piece, Webb described the harsh conditions imposed on Arnett, who had frostbite and sometimes labored in solitary confinement making paper bags.

"But, surprisingly, Arnett, home in Omaha, Neb., says he prefers Japan's legal system to ours," Webb wrote. "Why? 'Because it's fair,' he said."

The Senator's "Webbsite" has a link to the original article, entitled 'What we can learn from Japanese Prisons," which describes Arnett's experience in the Japanese legal system and, later, one of its prisons:

FUCHU PRISON, near Tokyo is home to 2500 of Japan's most hardened criminals. Ed Arnett is an alumnus who thinks of Fuchu daily. The dank, unheated buildings, the harshness of the guards' reports to their superiors, the high stone walls--these are as near to him as the scars on his legs, from the frostbite he picked up in his Fuchu cell.

"I didn't know I could still cry until I went to prison in Japan," says Arnett, convicted in 1979 for possession of two kilograms of marijuana. "I wouldn't put that experience on anybody."

How does Arnett rate this harsh experience compared to the prison system in his own country?

But, surprisingly, Arnett, home in Omaha, Neb., says he prefers Japan's legal system to ours. Why? "Because it's fair," he says. "The never tried to trick me, even in interrogation. They were always trustworthy. 1 could have got five years and they gave me two. The Americans who were helping them wanted me to get 20. The guards at Fuchu were hard, but they never messed with you unless there was a reason. You didn't have to worry about the other prisoners coming after you, either. And the laws of Japan are for everybody. That's the main thing. The laws in this country depend on how much you can pay. I'd rather live under a hard system that's fair."

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