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Public-private sectors in Japan to team up to support education after juvenile detention

The Ministry of Justice building. (Mainichi/Kazuo Motohashi)

TOKYO -- To prevent recidivism, the Ministry of Justice, in cooperation with the private sector, is launching efforts to provide academic support to youths who have been released from juvenile detention centers in Japan.

    Data shows that just over 60% of those who are placed in juvenile detention centers were not enrolled in school and have not received high school diplomas. The ministry hopes that through the use of private-sector know-how, it can support the continuation of learning among such youths, helping them graduate from high school and obtain jobs. The program will start as early as this summer.

    The Justice Ministry says it envisages that the program will be operated by "professionals in learning support." It is believed that the education sector, including cram schools, is interested in running the program.

    The operators will interview the youths while they are still in detention, and create a post-release support plan based on the individuals' enthusiasm for learning and the direction toward which they hope to head. Many of the youths live under the supervision of probation staff after they are released. Program operators will exchange information with these probations offices and work out a learning environment for the youths. For about a year after the youths leave the detention centers, the operators will provide them with opportunities for learning, and will be available to consult with for advice. Operators are also apparently considering using learning support apps to assist the youth in their studies.

    The plan is for the Justice Ministry to pay commission to the operators based on whether the youths achieve a certain level of their target goals. In some regions, private volunteers offer learning support to youths who have been released from juvenile detention centers, but this is the first time that such an arrangement will be made by the public sector.

    According to the Justice Ministry, among youths who entered juvenile detention centers in 2019, 40% had dropped out of high school, and a little over 20% had graduated from junior high school -- which is a serious situation. Obtaining jobs and other basic life foundations are crucial in order to reenter society following release from detention, but many companies make at least a high school education or the equivalent criteria that their potential employees must fulfill.

    Examining the percentage of youths whose probation term ended in 2019, but were once again placed under protective custody or faced criminal charges, 41.5% were unemployed, while just 11.8% were students. It appears that a place of learning serves as a kind of a "home base" for these youths.

    To expand the range of occupations that these youths can choose for themselves, the Justice Ministry has decided to start a model project this fiscal year in collaboration with correspondence course high schools at seven juvenile detention centers in Japan. The program would provide learning opportunities by using the internet and other methods, and support youths toward their aim of graduating from high school. Some correctional education classes provided at juvenile detention centers can also be recognized as credits toward high school graduation if correspondence schools judge that the classes meet their criteria.

    Normally, youths spend about six months or around a year in juvenile detention centers, which makes it a challenge to secure a learning environment for them after they are released from detention. The Justice Ministry is hoping to link the two efforts together depending on the case, in order to successfully provide continued educational support.

    "For youths who have been released from detention centers to find their own place and role in society, education is extremely important," an official at the Justice ministry said. "In addition to guidance on preventing recidivism, we would like to tackle the challenge from the side of educational support."

    (Japanese original by Masakatsu Yamamoto, Tokyo City News Department)

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