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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 70927 Find in a Library
Title: Sentencing Standards in Japan (From UNAFEI (United Nations Asia and Far East Institute for the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders) Report for 1978 and Resource Material, P 197-221, 1979 - See NCJ-70911)
Author(s): T Tanizawa
Date Published: 1979
Page Count: 25
Format: Document
Language: English
Country: Japan
Annotation: This article introduces the basic sentencing provisions of Japanese law and summarizes a series of research studies that statistically analyzed case disposition records to ascertain trends in discretionary sentencing practices.
Abstract: Japanese criminal law provides various sentencing alternatives and the minimum and maximum term or amount of punishment for sentencing. Several statutes include mention of mitigating and extenuating factors, but these are insufficient as a guide in meting out sentences. The Japanese court has formed more detailed sentencing standards through practice, referred to as 'market price in sentencing.' To clarify these standards, research has been done, tabulating the sentences between 1966 and 1976, for the offenses of accomplished and attempted homicide, infanticide, parricide, rape, bodily injury, and robbery and theft. The data revealed that, in general, the rates of suspension have gradually increased and terms of sentence have been shortened every year. Thus, characteristics of Japanese sentencing are extensive use of short-term imprisonment and suspension thereof, and the tendency to employ more lenient sentences. For example, three quarters of all defendants in rape cases were sentenced to prison terms of 2 to 3 years and about one half were granted suspensions, although the statutory provision for rape is imprisonment for 2 to 15 years. Discussions based on comments by judges, public prosecutors, and scholars explain the general leniency trend in terms of judges' beliefs that lighter sentences encourage rehabilitation. Most sentences cluster around the minimum statutory provisions. With regard to some crimes, however, both the courts and the people consider the prescribed penalties too severe (e.g., parricide--life imprisonment, robbery with bodily injury--7 to 15 years). In general, Japanese judges maintain personal objectivity and adherence to the accepted sentencing practices. This binding power of the sentencing standards, however, has had the undesirable effect of perpetuating some sentences that are intrinsically improper or have become so because of changed social conditions. Judges' conferences on sentencing are recommended to clarify sentencing standards that better reflect the popular sense of justice. Tabular data and notes are provided.
Index Term(s): Japan; Judicial discretion; Sentencing disparity; Sentencing guidelines; Sentencing reform
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