What keeps the crime rate low, in a low-crime society ? Focus your answer on one particular low crime society but draw relevant contrasts with one high crime society. Crime is considered to be a normal social fact in high crime societies (Garland, 2000) and soaring rates are the result of industrialisation and a new era of technology. Comparative criminology can investigate this statement by taking into account the socially constructive nature of crime and its cultural variety. It can help to benefit societies with high crime rates through gaining knowledge of those with lower rates and their implementation of justice.
Japan is a prosperous society that enjoys low rates of crime and consequently has acquired a great deal of interest among western criminologists hoping to understand why. There are a number of factors that can be attributed to Japan's apparent success in tackling crime and this essay will explore them in detail whilst comparing strategies and agencies with the U.S. It will reflect upon environmental, economic and cultural factors as determinants, emphasising the impact of culture on keeping rates low. It will then go on to examine the effectiveness of Japan's CJS and the famous Koban before a detailed evaluation of the success of reintegrative shaming as a deterrence from criminal activity. Eventually it will analyse the credibility of the statistics and contextual problems with comparing different societies.
WW2 brought great devastation to a number of countries and Japan was no exception. Many cities and towns were ruined and the economy was defeated. Rapid economic and industrial growth saw the country prospering again by 1970 with a reducing rate of crime. This generated a problem for structural criminologists in the U.S who held industrialisation responsible for their increasing rates. Japan experienced a decrease in crime from 1900 per 100,000 in 1950 to 1100 per 100,000 in 1975 (Reichel,2008) and during the same time America suffered a substantial increase from 1900 per 100,000 to 5200 per 100,000 (White Paper,2003).
According to Durkheim mechanical forces in society will cause a person to commit crime, so within this perspective radical urbanisation will increase crime as people are objects of structure. However, once the extremity of the differences between rates in the two countries has been addressed, it becomes clear that a Weberian principle may have more credibility. It denotes that individuals act upon a set of values and it is internal forces that determine crime. If this were true, culture would have a huge role to play in the reduction of criminality. It is true, and it does, but it does not stand independently from other determining facets. Komiya (1999) identifies four integrative factors that affect Japans level of crime.
These are environmental, progressive, judicial and cultural. Environment as a factor includes the demographics and geographic location. It enjoys its own independent island and is completely isolated from the west. A large proportion of all inhabitants are Japanese, raised with traditional norms and values. This is in stark contrast to the U.S and its multi-cultural tendencies. Progression relates to the standards of education and state of the economy. Japan experiences greater economic equality and less unemployment or poverty than the U.S. Justice as a determining feature in crime rates incorporates the legal constraints and control systems and their competency and will be discussed in detail below. Culture is the most important factor in ensuring low crime rates(Komiya,1999)and should be investigated in detail as Westerners have a limited understanding of Japanese norms, values and ways of life.
Japanese culture has the characteristics of a feudal society, in that it is centralised around group cohesion, interdependency and informal social control. Homogeneity and collective consciousness replace the individualism and self expression of U.S culture. Socialisation of children occurs at an early age, focusing on group accomplishments and the values of belonging to a group that will bring enduring and affecting satisfaction. These lay the foundations for a future web of social control and ensure its effectiveness as a tool for crime control. It incorporates relativistic belief systems as the moral code is dependent upon the context which one finds oneself (Reichel, 2008). This has prompted Komiya(1999) to identify Japanese culture as dualistic in nature with two contrasting norms: Uchi and Yoso. Yoso consists of interaction with strangers and is not important in this comparative analysis as the uchi membership is so strong, it prevents unlawful actions within both worlds.
Uchi means home and is characterised by its strong interdependence. It consists of families and work colleagues, or schoolmates and traditional values and duties to one another remain at all times. It is a heterogeneous membership so common values cannot provide the basis for group stability. The complicated interaction between individuals with conflicting attributes can cause tension so confrontation is avoided at all costs. Disputes within the uchi are resolved within the uchi and strict rules of conduct are necessary to ensure appropriate behaviour. The strong informal control of the uchi is reciprocated with lasting emotional support from the group as each member has an emotional commitment to every other. Self control is a necessary skill for survival as those who commit a crime jeopardise their membership within, which can result in drastic consequences.
It is the strong repressive laws within the uchi, that all integrated citizens of Japan are a part of and ensures low level of crime. The Japanese do not have individual freedom from the uchi as they require it for security, and group solidarity is so strong that mixing in other groups will be seen as a betrayal. They have a harmonious existence without mixing. This is almost a direct opposite of U.S culture, where individuals can enjoy freedom and self reliance and individualism is encouraged. Citizens pick their own groups based on similarities and friendship and not locality, which is not the case in Japanese culture where the groups are tailored around constraint and conformity. It is this group mentality that acts as a deterrent for crime and is essential in keeping Japan's crime rates low (Komiya,1999).