Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Japanese Prison System Makes Room for Gis Prisoners Serve out Spartan, Regimented Sentences

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Japanese Prison System Makes Room for Gis Prisoners Serve out Spartan, Regimented Sentences

Article excerpt

IT HAS ALL the usual features of a Japanese jail, from the high walls and drab concrete buildings to the smell of disinfectant. But Yokosuka Prison is special.

Flapping in the breeze next to Japan's rising-sun banner is the American flag. On one corner of the grounds is a ward set aside for what is probably the largest community of jailed U.S. military personnel anywhere outside the United States.

The community is likely to grow.

The treatment of U.S. military personnel who break Japanese laws has become the focus of a national debate in Japan. Support for the U.S.-Japan security alliance has been sapped since a murder in May and the rape of a 12-year-old girl in September.

U.S. servicemen stand accused of both crimes, which were committed on the southern Japanese island of Okinawa where more than 26,000 U.S. military personnel are based.

A Marine pleaded guilty in an Okinawa court to the May killing, and a sailor has confessed to the rape. Two more Marines are accused in the rape, but say only that they helped plot the attack and abduct the girl.

If convicted, all would be sent here, to Yokosuka Prison, about 50 miles south of Tokyo.

According to Warden Keiichi Hatakeyama, 19 U.S. servicemen and one military dependent are serving sentences at Yokosuka now. When they complete their sentences, they will be sent back to the United States and receive dishonorable discharges.

In all, there are about 45,000 U.S. military personnel based in Japan. In South Korea, where about 30,000 U.S. military personnel are stationed, 14 Americans are in prison. Germany, which is to play host to nearly 77,000 U.S. military personnel, has eight behind bars.

U.S. military officials said that, as of Sept. 25, the U.S. servicemen imprisoned in Japan included two convicted of murder, two of robbery and murder, 12 of robbery and assault, two of robbery and rape, one of robbery and one of firearms law violations.

"The Americans here tend to be in for long sentences," said Hatakeyama.

Hatakeyama said the Americans were given beds instead of the floor mats Japanese inmates sleep on and have bread and milk on their daily menu instead of rice and miso soup. …

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