Fukuoka inmates call doctor a persecutor

Friday, June 20, 2008

FUKUOKA (Kyodo) Inmates at Fukuoka Prison in Umi have told lawyers they are unable to get appropriate medical services and are subject to discriminatory and insulting remarks by physicians there, sources said Thursday.

At least 70 such cases have been reported to a local bar association since 2002, and most refer to the physician who heads the prison's second medical affairs office, the sources said.

Fukuoka Prison houses roughly 1,900 inmates aged 26 or older and whose prison terms are less than eight years. About 100 of them are foreigners, mainly Chinese.

The bar association and the Center for Prisoners' Rights, a nonprofit organization based in Tokyo, said the inmates are complaining that the physician refuses to check on their conditions or claims they're pretending to be sick without performing proper diagnoses.

According to the sources, the physician, whose name was not provided, has repeatedly told inmates: "Go back," "You are only pretending," or "I won't see a Chinese who has committed theft in Japan."

He also told an inspection panel of local scholars and lawyers that "inmates should undergo agony so that they never want to come back to prison," the sources said.

"The physician seems to believe he has the authority to punish them, but that's wrong," a Center for Prisoners' Rights official said. "I assume the problem would concern many prisons across the country."

A public relations officer at Fukuoka Prison declined comment, but a Fukuoka Regional Correction Headquarters official said: "We don't see any problems with the prison."