Comparative Criminal Justice Systems U.S.

Reintegrative shaming acts a deterrence for the offender and for any future offenders, as the shame and rejection felt by the actor acts as a deterrent and is stronger than the punishment itself. This is a more effective means of deterring crime than the punitive measures in America that relies on punishment and not prevention. (Braithwaite, 1989) Japan is committed to communitarianism and the importance of repenting for sinful actions and the centralisation of family in the culture ensures its success without the loss of respect. Concentration is placed on the act and not the actor and the individual is given the opportunity to repent.

In the U.S the actor is punished for unlawful actions with fines, community service or incarceration. The decline of informal structures within the U.S has resulted in the diminishment of their sanctioning capacities, and as Braithwaite (1989) argues interdependency is essential in the execution of reintegrative shaming. The success of reintegrative shaming is evident in Japan's low crime rates, but it cannot be ignored that the strategy relies on communitarianism. It is evident that culture plays a huge role in its success. It would not enjoy the same success in the U.S because of the heterogeneous nature of its culture and this highlights the social construction of crime. Shaming helps to build on the collective consciousness and ensure its maintenance but is not the governing factor. Without the strong culture apparent in Japan, it wouldn't stand a chance.

It has been imperative to utilise comparative criminology to evaluate the apparent success of Japan as a low level crime nation against America's apparent failure. However, there are problems in this type of strategy (Reichel, 2008). Differences in social, economic and political context between societies will affect the comparison. The economies in Japan and America have similarities, but the social and political context differ dramatically and this will have a greater affect on the crime rates than policy alone. Not only this, but statistical evidence can be misleading. It is essential before analysis to ensure the data is defined, reported and recorded in a similar manner, but this is not always the case (Hamai and Ellis, 2008).

Differences in legal definitions will result in a comparison of statistics of different acts. For example, definitions of homicide in Japan do not include burglary-homicide, but they do in America (Hamai and Ellis, 2008). Taking this into account throws new light on the dramatic difference in homicide rates between the two countries. There is also an issue of underreporting of crimes to police. Japan has no victimisation survey resulting in the only figures of crime being those that are reported to police. Japanese culture strongly influences individuals to solve crimes informally, within the uchi, without any judicial action. These crimes will not be counted in the figures

This essay identifies three key factors in Japans low crime rates: The Koban; Reintegrative shaming and culture. Whilst the success depends on all of these features, culture plays the central role. Japanese and American cultures contrast so extremely that different strategies must be implicated in the fight against crime. Japan has integrated a number of theories, strategies and European legality and really come up trumps!

It is however all reliant on culture and increasing industrialisation and a move from a collective consciousness threatens to jeopardise the success that they have enjoyed for so long. After this is all considered, statistical validity throws a worrying shadow on Japans crime rates and a dark reality of crime could be lurking under the surface. However the extremity of the difference in rates between the two countries suggests that even after validity is considered, it is still apparent that Japan is more successful at deterring crime than the U.S.


Aldous, C and Leishman, F (2000) Enigma Variations: Reassessing the Koban. Nissan Occassional Paper Series 31 Bayley, D.H(1991) Forces of Order: Policing Modern Japan. Berkeley: University of California Press. Braithwaite, J (1989) Crime shame and reintegration. New York: Cambridge University Press Damner, H.R and Fairchild, E (2006) Comparative Criminal Justice Systems. 3rd ed. Canada: Wadsworth Garland, D (2000) The culture of high crime societies. British Journal of Criminology 40(3) p.347-375