Isohi Kyozo (surname first), a 36-year-old man killed to complete strangers on June 10, 2012, stabbing them to death on a busy street in Osaka.
His reason? He was was too afraid to kill himself and knew that Japan's penal system could invoke the death penalty (hanging) if he committed murder.
To say that there are mental issues at play here undermines the whole mental issue process.
Let's go into the head of Isohi-san.
About one month earlier, Isohi (that's him in the photo above as he sits in a police car after being arrested) was granted freedom after doing time on a drug conviction. He had no idea how to reintegrate himself back into Japanese society.
Isohi told police: "I was at a loss over how to make a living, so I decided to kill myself.
"I just couldn't go through with it, though, so I thought that if I killed some people, I would be sentenced to death."
Always good to have a plan, I suppose. But here's a person too confused and too afraid to actually commit suicide — which means he actually still cares about himself — not giving a crap about other people... treating them solely as a means to his end. No fair, is it... but either this Isohi is a complete IQ idiot, or he's mentally ill.
The focus of the story that I first saw in The Japan Times is that the murders are all the fault of prison authorities. I know, that sounds ridiculous, but it's not.
Isohi when released from prison, was granted his unconditional release. He was not released on parole. There's a difference.
Unlike parole, in Japan at least, the unconditionally released ex-con is not helped by the social services system or prison system... it's a concern that recidivism will occur.
Right now, after you serve your full prison term, you no longer require any follow-up upon release. You are free. Isohi was free. He did not have to check in with a parole officer.
And yet... he did.
After leaving Niigata Prison on May 24, 2012. Isohi visited a probation office in Utsunomiya-shi, Tochigi-ken, the same day. That's a distance of ~170 kilometers (~105 miles). Hopefully this map works: HERE.
The news stories I read do not state where he received the money to make such a trip (from relatives, the prison, etc.), but travel he did.
At the probation office in Utsunomiya, he apparently explained to a social service worker that he had no home to go to. That person directed Isohi to a private facility, a drug rehab clinic, for housing.
Again, the story does not state how he managed to pay for his stay at the private clinic, or even where that clinic is, or what that clinic was called.
To me, these are interesting parts of the story that show the epic fail of the system that is being blamed for Isohi thinking the only way he could get help is if he murdered others.
On June 8, Isohi left the private drug rehab clinic and went to visit a female relative in Nasushiobara in Niigata-ken.
Now... I was pretty sure that Nasushiobara is actually a city in Tochigi-ken. I looked at maps to see if there was another Nasushiobara that might actually be in Niigata-ken, but I could not find it. My Japanese reading skills of Kanji leave much to be desired... still, I'm pretty sure The Japan Times articles erred. I could be wrong, though. But this is how bad information is quickly passed through the Internet and other social media. Fact checking! I'm at least adding a disclaimer!
Instead, let's say that Isohi went to visit a female relative in Nasushiobara in Tochigi-ken on June 8, 2012.
Isohi says that he had to leave the clinic because its living quarters were too similar to the prison he was just freed from. That's understandable.
He also asked her if she knew of any job openings. So far... it sure sounds like he is trying to reintegrate back into Japanese society.
On June 9, however, after learning from a friend who had called him on June 8 - I can only assume that Isohi had called him first, otherwise how would he know where to find him? - Isohi was told that there was a job opportunity in Osaka... so he left right away... I will assume since the Shinkansen bullet train stops in Nasushiobara (I've taken it many times myself from the stop) and goes south to Tokyo before transferring bullet trains and heading west to Osaka.
Is anyone questioning where this guy keeps getting all of this money? Just for the reference of the nosy reader?
Arriving in Osaka on June 9, it was the very next day - June 10, 2012 - when Isohi stabbed a man and a woman in downtown Osaka City.
In The Japan Times article, Isohi's story ends here. There is no mention if he actually had that job offer rescinded, or he did lousy at the job interview, or if he even went to a job interview... was he already feeling mentally unwell before the job interview - did the interviewer not hire him for a particular reason. Or... did Isohi get the job? Was it still up in the air (undecided)?
Whatever the reason, Isohi felt despondent. And wanted to die.
What is interesting to me, is that - let's say he did not get the job - after becoming despondent, he thought he should kill himself.
Now... I'm going to say that it probably isn't all that unusual for people to 'think' about suicide. But when you start formulating plans about how you would do it - that's taking it up a notch or three.
For Isohi, realizing, after a few hours, that he couldn't kill himself - but still wanting to die, he would get help.
With police forces carrying guns, the term 'death-by-cop' has crept into mainstream vocabulary. Do something illegal and when confronted, point your weapon at the police - they will then, more than likely, shoot at you.
It's one of the reasons that police forces are looking to arm officers with (hopefully) less lethal weapons such as tasers (which have been known to kill its target rather than incapacitate).
In Japan - police officers do carry guns - this option was available to Isohi.
His choice is still baffling. Okay... have the government execute you for murder... sounds like a plan... but how long will that take? Weeks after a trial? Months? Years?
Isohi was in such a rush to get his death sentence... was in such a rush to avoid staying at a clinic that reminded him of prison, that one month later, he is irrational, back in prison and has a long wait before an execution date is even offered.
Does that sound rational?
The point is well met that people receiving an unconditional release from prison do not get any help in finding a home or job or integration back into society. All true, I suppose. Perhaps services should be offered WHILE the person is in prison - perhaps a two week course with some leads about where one could stay - a half-way house, if necessary; or businesses that actually offer work to ex-cons. Or perhaps proper drug re-hab while in prison. Something.
In fact... it is possible that these services exist, but The Japan Times article did not confirm or deny the existence of such a thing. It was inferred, however, that these services do not exist.
The article goes on to mention how Tateyama Tasumi (surname first), 51, who raped and murdered a female university student in Matsudo, Chiba-ken back in October of 209, is sitting on Death Row.
Like the Isohi case, Tateyama committed his crimes one month after being unconditionally released from prison. However... Tatyama does not want to die, and is appealing his conviction.
Tateyama lacked a home and a job at the time of his crimes - so people are saying the crimes are the fault of the prison system that left them in this situation.
According to Japan's Justice Minister Taki Makoto (surname first), "The (current) system doesn't readily allow for follow-ups on convicts who are released (unconditionally) after serving time."
Japan, pretty much like all over the world, notes that after prison, it is difficult to find a job.
According to the Justice Ministry, more than 70 per cent of recidivist felons (prison returnees) are unemployed.
It makes sense... no work... no money... but back in prison one gets a roof over their head, three square meals a day, a gym membership and all the anal sex one can give (and get).
I find the following numbers a bit surprising, but according to 2011 data, while it is easier for a parolee to find work in Japan than for someone who serves the full sentence and gets an unconditional release, still... some 30 per cent of parolees are back in prison after five years (on the plus side - 70 per cent are NOT back in prison!).
In that same time span (five years), 53.4 percent of those released unconditionally are back behind bars.
As for employment for an ex-con, some 10,000 businesses in Japan are actually registered with probation offices nationwide as 'associate employers' who would hire an ex-con, if a position was available, according to the Justice Ministry.
While the list of businesses offering to hire ex-cons continues to grow (wow!), actual job offers are low thanks to the terrible Japanese economy (ow!).
As part of a solution, the Justice Ministry (I keep thinking Superman and Aquaman are part of this) says it will begin a new system that does NOT imprison 1st-time offenders or those convicted of drug offenses.
These individuals, would be placed on probation and monitored for part of their sentences.
It's a start. I think that in the case of Isohi, it really didn't matter if he had a job or a home... his mental health issues would have caused a problem eventually.
What's missing is proper diagnosis of mental health concerns in Japanese individuals. I know it's there, but there is such a social stigma involved in it all.
It's the same all around the world, so I don't want to point the finger solely at Japan.
While I do not suffer from any sort of chemical imbalance or mental health issues, I've certainly seen it all around me with friends, co-workers and family suffering from its effects.
Hmm... if everyone around you is 'crazy', what does that make you?
I know of people who are afraid to say they have a mental health issue - preferring to go it alone, without support or understanding. It's like being gay or lesbian... 30 years ago, no one understood.... there's still issues in 2012, but it took the courage of many people to come out let the world know. Personally, I don't really care about your sexual orientation. Whatever makes you happy, makes you happy.
But mental health issues... it's still a dark and quiet place that most sufferers do not reveal. However... there is hope. Here in Canada, there are government initiatives to bring it to the public's eye as something not to be ashamed of.
Since 2010, Canadian Olympic hero (she was initially one of mine for her two sport championship form!) Clara Hughes (right) has been a part of a Canadian initiative to teach people that mental illness is not something one needs to suffer alone.
Clara, by the way, won a total of six Olympic medals in the Summer AND Winter Olympics (cycling and speed skating... speed skating is actually - over hockey - my favorite sport to watch in the Olympics).
While all of this does not excuse the fact that two innocent people lost their lives to the whims of Isohi.
Whether it's the fault of the social services system in Japan for not helping an ex-con situate himself better, or whether its the fact that Isohi was never diagnosed with mental health issues, the fact remains that two people are dead, and another is ruins.
Files compiled by Andrew Joseph