Japan's Elderly Want To Go To Prison

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Adam Taggart's picture
Adam Taggart
Status: Peak Prosperity Co-founder (Offline)
Joined: May 26 2009
Posts: 3213
Japan's Elderly Want To Go To Prison

What happens when you combine?

  • An aging population
  • A domestic economy terminally mired in slow growth
  • An increasing separation from the community norms previous generations practiced

You get sad situations like Japan, where a growing number of poor and/or lonely seniors are willingly committing crimes in order to get put in prison, as they prefer the living conditions there.

From Business Insider:

Elderly people in Japan are getting arrested on purpose because they want to go to prison

Japan has the world's oldest population, with more than a quarter of its citizens aged 65 or older.

The aging population has already put a strain on Japan's financial system and retail industry. But in recent years, another unexpected trend has been unfolding: In record numbers, elderly people in Japan are committing petty crimes so they can spend the rest of their days in prison.

According to Bloomberg, complaints and arrests involving older citizens are outpacing those of any other demographic in Japan, and the elderly crime rate has quadrupled over the past couple of decades.

In prisons, one out of every five inmates is a senior citizen. And in many cases — nine out of 10, for senior women — the crime that lands them in jail is petty shoplifting.

The unusual phenomenon stems from the difficulties of caring for the country's elderly population. The number of Japanese seniors living alone increased by 600% between 1985 and 2015, Bloomberg reported. Half of the seniors caught shoplifting reported living alone, the government discovered last year, and 40% of them said they either don't have family or rarely speak to them.

For these seniors, a life in jail is better than the alternative.

"They may have a house. They may have a family. But that doesn't mean they have a place they feel at home," Yumi Muranaka, head warden of Iwakuni Women's Prison, told Bloomberg.

It costs more than $20,000 a year to keep an inmate in jail, according to Bloomberg, and elderly inmates drive that cost even higher with special care and medical needs. Prison staff members are increasingly finding themselves preforming the duties of a nursing home attendant. But female inmates interviewed by Bloomberg suggested they feel a sense of community in prison that they never felt on the outside.

"I enjoy my life in prison more. There are always people around, and I don't feel lonely here. When I got out the second time, I promised that I wouldn't go back. But when I was out, I couldn't help feeling nostalgic," one of the women told Bloomberg.

This signifies a deterioration in Japan's culture. A material percentage of its elderly either have so little retirement savings (Financial Capital) or family/community support (Social Capital) that a prison cell, with the crowded life and 3 meals a day that comes with it, is preferable to the status quo.

And it's only going to get worse. Even putting aside the impact of any future global recessions, Japan's population demographics are awful.

The age cohort chart below shows Japan's population will have morphed from a "pyramid" in 1990 into a "kite" by 2050, with way more people over 50 than below:


China will be suffering a similar fate, presumably due to its prolonged one-child policy.

And while the US projections don't look as dire (assuming it continues to allow immigration at a similar rate), an elder-care crisis is still in the making over the next few decades.

The largest generational cohort, the Baby Boomers, have now hit retirement age, though 68% have not saved enough to retire (and a full 1 out of every 3 have $0 in savings). With so many so financially unprepared, as well as America's lower rate (vs Japan) of caring for elderly parents within a multi-generational household, a veritable tsunami of desperate seniors is on the horizon.

In fact, arrests of seniors has increased 44% in the US since the year 2000. So, we appear to already be following in Japan's footsteps.

LesPhelps's picture
Status: Platinum Member (Offline)
Joined: Apr 30 2009
Posts: 811
Thanks Adam

You bring up an issue I’ve never run across.

Not that it’s a good solution, but at $20,000 per person/year, I almost suspect it is cheaper than keeping impoverished elderly on the outside.

I seem to recall hearing the US incarceration cost pegged at $40,000 per person/year.

skipr's picture
Status: Silver Member (Offline)
Joined: Jan 9 2016
Posts: 168
home sweet home

This reminds me of a guy I read about when living in Boston 30 years ago.  Every time he was released from prison he would go out and rob a bank.  He would immediately surrender and be sent back to his only home.  That was 30 years ago during the good times.  Maybe Trump should build his wall around all of the suburbs.

QQQBall's picture
Status: Member (Offline)
Joined: Mar 3 2011
Posts: 12
Look for Offshoring the penal

Look for Offshoring the penal system. $20k/Perp  in Japan,; just think how cheap it would be in Uganda. There must be a cheap island somewhere? Get long the IPO!

richcabot's picture
Status: Silver Member (Offline)
Joined: Apr 5 2011
Posts: 226
It would probably stem the flow

If elderly Japanese were sent to a place where they were in the minority I expect they'd stop going to prison. Having a cell mate that doesn't speak your language would seriously reduce that sense of community.

Seriously, it seems like low cost care facilities would be a booming area for start-ups in Japan.  At least among the people with assets that could be liquidated the business model might work.  Any word on if anyone is doing this?

DennisC's picture
Status: Gold Member (Offline)
Joined: Mar 19 2011
Posts: 342
Perhaps a Fresh Coat of Paint

on this place, a few kitchen and cell updates, and sell a few "coins" to raise some "IPO" money, and voilà!  Add a quarterly dividend, even better.


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