Four teachers at a reform school for juvenile delinquents in Hiroshima Prefecture were arrested Tuesday on suspicion of physically abusing students.
One of them is suspected of showering a 17-year-old boy with cold water and forcing him to wear a paper diaper in front of his friends.
Another allegedly shoved a detergent container into the mouth of a 16-year-old boy, saying, "Swallow this and die." A third allegedly hit a 17-year-old in the face, kicked him and then caused him to become incontinent by refusing to allow him to use the bathroom.
The Hiroshima District Public Prosecutors Office arrested the four special public officers on suspicion of resorting to violence and cruelty during the course of their duties.
The Hiroshima Juvenile Training School is one of a number of institutions for young offenders. During their time in custody, students are supposed to learn how to reform themselves through lifestyle guidance and job training.
These institutions, where teachers take the place of parents in caring for the young people, are often described as schools for re-education.
But what allegedly occurred at the training school in Hiroshima had nothing to do with education. The acts perpetrated on the students violated their human dignity.
When one boy, feeling he could no longer endure repeated violence, said he would be better off dead if force was used all the time, he was cold-bloodedly told by one of the four teachers, "Then, die."
It is frightening to know that such a person was a teacher.
The shocking revelations prompted the Justice Ministry to investigate by interviewing all the 102 boys at the school. The inquiry found that about 50 boys had endured physical abuse on around 100 occasions during fiscal 2008 alone.
Most of the cases involved the four teachers. But other teachers who looked the other way are also to blame.
What actually happened in a closed environment where the scrutiny of outsiders was not permitted? We urge prosecutors to conduct an exhaustive investigation to uncover the entire truth.
A system is in place that allows students at training schools to make complaints about the way they are treated or other matters. This is supposed to be done through a face-to-face chat with the superintendent.
But not a single interview took place during the past two years.
Some students said filing a complaint was usually punished by worse treatment and they feared retaliation.
To prevent a recurrence of this shameful state of affairs, an effective system for independent monitoring must be set up.
An inspection committee of private-sector monitors was established for each of the nation's prisons and detention facilities when the prison law was revised for the first time in 97 years. The step was taken in response to assaults by guards at the Nagoya Prison in 2002 which left one inmate dead.
A similar monitoring system should be established for juvenile training schools. Under the system, a request for help from a student should trigger an inquiry by a fact-finding committee independent of the Justice Ministry.
It is hard not to suspect that the scandal at the Hiroshima school is only the tip of the iceberg. At seven other training schools, like the one in Hiroshima, no student interview with the superintendent was held during the past two years.
The Justice Ministry is now looking into how students are actually treated at the other 51 training schools nationwide to find out whether there have been similar assaults. The ministry should fully disclose its findings and report any egregious case to public prosecutors.
Most of the teachers at these facilities must be working eagerly to help students mend their ways. That makes it all the more important to ensure that every possible effort is made to prevent similar abuse.
The government can take the first step toward restoring public confidence in these facilities by demonstrating a firm commitment to fixing their problems.
--The Asahi Shimbun, June 11(IHT/Asahi: June 12,2009)
All sorts of ppl also got.