October 31, 2008

Japanese corrections officials studying at SIUC

by Andrea Hahn

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- When students from the Ministry of Justice in Japan enter the graduate program in the Center for the Study of Crime, Delinquency and Corrections at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, they bring more than just the experience of another culture. They bring practical work experience, too.

Takashi Seimiya, who graduates in December, and Junichi Ishihara, who is in his first semester at SIUC, both come here from administrative staff positions with the Tokyo Detention Center. They are two students among the many the Ministry of Justice has sent to SIUC since the 1960s, when the exchange between the Japanese correctional institution and the University began.

Kimberly Kempf-Leonard, CSCDC director, said the first and founding CSCDC director, Myrl Alexander, who went on to serve as director of the Bureau of Prisons in the U.S. Department of Justice, helped establish the relationship.

Distinguished Professor Elmer H. Johnson, who led the CSCDC from the mid-1960s until the mid-1980s, strengthened the connection. Johnson served as mentor to students from Japan during his many years at SIUC, and traveled to Japan himself to strengthen the exchange. Kempf-Leonard said students returning from Japan for a visit often included a visit to Johnson, who passed away on Aug. 28 in Carbondale.

“We’ve had one or two students at a time from the Correction Bureau of the Ministry of Justice in Japan almost since the program was founded,” she said, noting that SIUC faculty and administrators have gone to Japan as well.

“Right now, they are interested in community corrections, as opposed to institutional corrections,” Kempf-Leonard said. “They want to learn about how we handle probation and parole, electronic monitoring, community service and other forms of community-based corrections.”

Seimiya noted that in Japan, the emphasis is on the individual personality characteristics of a convicted criminal, and that those characteristics are key to that individual’s experience in corrections. Here, he said, the emphasis seems to be more on punishment than rehabilitation

“Our prison system is really different from that in the United States,” he said. “For example, we don’t have the jury system -- yet.”

Ishihara, who is responsible for placing convicted persons in the penal institutions for which they are best suited, said he tries to share what he has learned from his personal experiences with his fellow students. However, it isn’t always easy to explain, he said.

“Sometimes it is really difficult to explain what it is like inside a prison system,” he said. “It’s hard to describe the privacy (issues), the security, how it is from day to day.”

Both students noted, however, that the cultural differences between Japan and the United States give the exchange a cultural significance as well as an intellectual exchange of corrections theories. Both Seimiya and Ishihara study kendo, a martial art, and are delighted with the opportunity to keep up with kendo at the SIUC Recreation Center.

Both of them rave about the how much they enjoy the open space of the SIUC campus, both of them using “green” to describe their first impression of SIUC.

“Our families are very excited to see squirrels and deer,” Seimiya said. “It really seems to me to be a vast area. Tokyo is very crowded.”

While both said they occasionally miss access to ocean-fresh fish and Japanese cuisine, Seimiya said, “it’s not a serious thing” compared to the benefits of the exchange. Ishihara said he is simply too busy to be homesick. He is still interested in just walking around campus.

Graduates of the master’s program in the administration of justice at SIUC go on to careers in all areas of criminal justice, including law enforcement, corrections, child protection, academics, law and government positions. For more information about the Administration of Justice program and the Center for the Study of Crime, Delinquency and Corrections, visit www.siu.edu/~ajsiuc.