Since the actor Kazuya Iseya was arrested for possession, I thought it'd be a great time to share my experience. (throw away account) Edit 1: Disclaimer: I'm not going to say whether I'm JP or non-JP. This is in order to decrease the amount of bias for you, the readers, and more importantly, to protect my identity. Edit 2: I'll try to answer as many relevant questions down below. Edit 3: I'll do a follow-up post in the near future, between my release and the sentencing.
Edit 4: Added a bit of prologue Prologue
I'm not a violent or evil man. I've paid all my taxes, never got into fights, never joined gangs, reported found wallets, helped the disabled, etc. Didn't even drink till I was 20! Arrest~to the station:
As I was going to work, a guy stopped me and asked me if I was (my name). I told him yes. He told me he was with customs. Then 5-6 guys surrounded me as to prevent me from fleeing. Another guy came up to me and showed me a search warrant (later fond out he was the leader of the search party). I had to oblige as I thought saying no would just make things worse.
They came up to my room, and found some substances. They got a kit, tested it, obviously turned out positive, and said I was under arrest. Seeing that I was cooperative, they took the courtesy of not putting me in cuffs so that the neighbors would not panic, but they grabbed my trousers. I was placed in the middle of the backseat of the cop car, and was driven to the station.
I first thought "Shit" but then, I was working at this hell hole, so getting I figured that getting arrested wasn't the worst thing. Yes, I was that messed up. At the station:
First, they would take mug shots, collect fingerprints. They also swab your cheeks for DNA. Then, they tell you to strip and give you a grey sweatshirt and pants. You change into that. Remember the scene in Clockwork Orange? Very much like that. They then put you in a cell. Sometimes you have a cellmate, other times you don't.
Oh, they allow you to bring in some clothes from home. If you do, they'll take a marker and number the clothes.
By law, they can detain you for 48 hours without allowing you a visit from your family. In the cell
Basically it's about or smaller than the size of a one-room apartment. There's a toilet in a small corner room. One thing you notice is the height of the ceiling. Really high. Second, you notice that the toilet door is slanted, this is in order to prevent apparent hangings. Apart from that there is nothing, no table, no chair, just the walls and the floor.
I was in there with a Chinese guy who was there for hiring illegal immigrants. Said it was his 3rd time in there. He got out two days after I went in.
As for the bed, there's a small room in the holding area where they have all the futon stacked up. Each night, they make you take a set out for yourself, and put it back in the morning.
They also make you sweep with a broom and wipe your room each morning. Somebody's gotta do it and it won't be the janitors.
There are no direct views to the outside world. Sunlight does come in but you have no scene to look at. Kinda like an office I suppose. The lawyer
If you don't have a lawyer, one will be assigned to you. This was so. One guy came to me, about 6 hours after I got arrested. However after listening to me, he said he couldn't take my case. I was assigned a new lawyer the next day. He came to see me about 3-4 times during my 20+ days there. Statement taking
Each time you get your statement, there is a routine. You go against a wall, put your hands on it, they pat you, use a metal detector, and if all is ok they then cuff you AND rope you up. I assume they had a lot of inmates escaping in the past.
In the debriefing room (very small, a desk and a couple of chairs), they type up a statement of more or less what happened, how it happened, why it happened. For me, where I was born, my upbringing, jobs, etc. I think they did this in order to see if I was a delinquent or not.
After they type it up, they make you read it for verification, then sign it and a fingerprint. Once done, they take you back to the cell.
This happened about 4-5 times whilst I was there. Couple of times with the police, couple of times with the customs. Lasts between 30 to 120 min. The routine:
- Waking up: 7am, they tell you to wake up, fold your futon, you take turns per room putting it away in a room and go back to you cell. Once everyone puts away their futon, you get to wash your face and brush your teeth. There's a drawer where they have your toothbrush/soap. You wait your turn and you go get it. You take it and head over to the communal sink. One of the rare times where you can see the faces of other cells. They also bring in about 5 cops during this time, watching our moves. I assume this was because of security reasons, as if the inmates wanted to overpower, they could.
- Food: 3 times a day. 7am, 12pm, 5pm. Rice, some pickle, miso soup, one main dish, some side dish. They will put the tray through a small door like you see in the movies. They'll give you soy sauce and the Bulldog sauce. They will accommodate religious/vegan food if necessary. You can also order extra food. It's like katsu-don or yakiniku bento and the like. I thought it would be some good stuff or konbini level, but nah, it wasnt great. It also meant that you have your regular food AND the extra food. So you have to eat twice the amount. I did this once and regret it.
- Entertainment: They will come around and lend you a book twice a day. Once after breakfast, once after lunch. So you have one chance to change if it sucks. They only had manga or novel, but mostly in Japanese. They somehow had Lord of the Rings and The Firm in the station I was in, so I read that. They also have a newspaper coming in in rounds. They censor any related crime articles. They also allow you to buy certain stuff if you order it (magazines, stationery, snacks). I bought a pen and notebook on the first day to jott down my daily routines. Your family/friends can also bring in a book. If they do, the bookmark string that's available in Japanese books will be cut off. No rope/strings whatsoever are allowed inside the cell. If you are in this situation, I advise you to get some thick books. You have all day to read, so you'll go through books in an instant.
- Activities: 15 min in the morning, you get to go to a small courtyard and shave with an electric razor. You also get to clip your nails. They make you take turns with a max of about 4-5 guys (and a cop per inmate). Another time where you get to talk casually with other inmates. It's also one of the rare times when you get to see the sky. If it's raining, you get to meddle around in the corridor. And since it's outside your cell, you get padded and get scanned with a metal detector. FYI, when you are outside, they come and inspect your room. Like we have anything inside...
- Visits: There are two types of visits, lawyers and others. In the case of lawyers, you get to go into the visitation room just by yourself. However the room has a plastic partition between you and the lawyer so passing of goods is impossible. In the case of your family/friends, an officer will join you and makes sure you don't pass any unnecessary information. This can be anything from your cellmates to recent criminal cases.
- Bath: depends on the season, but once every 3-4 days. You take turns. It is refreshing and you get to talk to whomever is in with you. The tip is to not sweat in your cell.
- Bed time: 9pm. You take your futon out from the small room. After you make your bed, you get to wash your face and brush your teeth. Tho this time, they don't pat you down.
- Medical check-up: Every two weeks, a doctor will come to do a routine checkup.
So basically my weekday routine is as follows:
- 07:00: wake up, brush teeth, breakfast, walk around the room
- 08:00: Goto the courtyard, bath
- 09:00: book time
- 10:00: walk around the room
- 11:00: walk around the room, newspaper
- 12:00: lunch, walk around the room
- 13:00: walk around the room
- 14:00: walk around the room
- 15:00: visit from family
- 16:00: walk around the room
- 17:00: dinner, walk around the room
- 18:00: walk around the room
- 19:00: brush teeth
- 20:00: walk around the room
- 21:00: make bed, sleep
The "walking around the room" means just that. I walk around the room to kill time. Fun fact, the perimeter of my room was roughly 47 toe-to-toe paces long. The 検察 (prosecutor) 1st time
This is/was hell. After breakfast, if it's your turn, you go outside your cell, get cuffed and roped with a couple of other guys, then are placed inside a police bus. You know in the news when they take videos of the accused? This is then.
They then drive you to the prosecutor's building. There, you're placed with 20 other guys in a small room with a bench. Chances are, it's in the basement to prevent people from fleeing. So there's no outside view, just some small sunlight. The inside is worse. The only thing you are allowed to do is look straight ahead and keep silent. You are not allowed to talk, think of it like a 6 hour meditation with unruly guys. There is a small toilet with a crappy door. They feed you two small sandwiches for lunch.
During this ordeal, you will be called and are sent to the prosecutor's room. They will interrogate you (whilst being recorded). Now here's the crappy part. You were just in a room with guys, all stressed out, and now the prosecutor tries to annoy and take the piss out of you, so that you slip up and say something unfavorable. Your loss is their gain. However, I had a young prosecutor, so it wasn't as bad as I was told it would be.
Also, they will have a preliminary sentencing within the first 48 hours. They will drive you to a courthouse (different from the prosecutor's place, in order to keep "just"). Here a judge will see if you need to be kept locked up for another 10 days. Unless it's like dine-and-dash, chances are you are kept locked up. The 検察 (prosecutor) 2nd time
You do the same routine and get taken to the building. This time it was crap for me. They assigned me a hard-ass prosecutor who will try to be as big of an asshole to rile you up. If in this situation, just stay calm, do not get hostile as it will give a bad impression. Total
I spent 48 hours + 10 days, and another extended 10 days, which comes to a total of 22 days. During then, if they indict you, you get to pay bond and are released. The court will send you a date and time of your trial. Had to goto the court 2-3 times. At the end I got a 2 year sentence that was suspended for 5 years (2年＋執行猶予5年）. Had to pay the court 30-man yen for inconveniencing them.
Some random stuff:
- You can talk to you cell mate, but not with your next door. But people do manage to find certain ways. I got to play battleships with my neighbor.
- The guy I know that was in there the longest was there for about 100+ days. He was involved in some espionage thing. White collar crime, but he was somehow restrained for a looong time.
- Only met 1 yakuza, he was busted for meth. Not a bad guy. Oh, and he was missing a finger.
- There was a guy who stole off the オレオレ詐欺 groups. Used the money to buy a house in his home country. After doing some time, he said he would go back and spend the rest of his life there.
- If it's your first time getting caught with a substance, chances are you'll get probation. However, if you're a dealer, you would get some time inside.
- There's an isolated room for the injured. There was a guy who tried to flee an arrest and broke his leg during then. He needed a wheelchair and was placed in that special room. That room was total isolation, and it could truly mess a guy up psychologically.
- A guy was arrested for meth and fraud, so was most likely facing 6~8 years inside. He had about 3 small kids. By the time he got out, he would have missed seeing his kids growing up.
- Another guy was arrested for robbery. And in Japan, there's a line of about 150 man yen, which defines the difference between 窃盗 and 強盗, which would differ substantially when it comes to sentencing. He stole just north of 150, so I think he had to do a nickel or so.
- The weirdest was a guy who stole a milk truck, drank some, then went to a net cafe to spend the night. He was arrested the next morn, when coming out of the cafe.
- A guy had to be cellmates with an old alcoholic man. He would tremble all the time, so him taking a leak was like a water sprinkler. Guess who had to clean the mess.
- A husband was in there for 48 hours for lightly pushing his wife. He got out after the charges were dropped. Never marry an over-reacting person.
- Oddly, I never met a murderer. Most, if not all, were for possession, drunken disorderly, fraud, traffic accident.
Oh, btw. Don't worry, I turned my life around. I have a really good job now.