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June 06, 2014

We Need A Post-Warehouse Prison: Learning from Shimane Asahi Rehabilitation Center

"Interesting" is the comment I hear most frequently when presenting this new line of research. That's exactly what I said when I came across it and what motivated me to explore further this high-tech, public private partnership prison/rehabilitation center that strives to be a good partner to the community. Their literature mentions the idea of creating "prisons the public could understand and support." 

I've continued to study Shimane Asahi Rehabilitation Center because it is also important. In working to create what they call a model prison for the next 50 years, the Japanese studied privatization and rehabilitation; they went through the literature to find "what works" and traveled extensively to learn about programs. 

The US has a bloated system of warehouse prisons that are the model for no one in the world. But we are not having a discussion about a new model, a model for the next 50 years - a post-warehouse prison.  We need to. The idea is not to copy what Japan did, but to recognize the need for and wisdom of such an effort, and to learn from their experience. Unfortunately, the main conversation is about privatization, which means trying to deliver the current warehouse prison system more cheaply and further entrenching not just a prison-industrial complex, but a warehouse prison-industrial complex.

This post lays out what I have done so far: a journal article, a TEDxEMU talk, and two presentations  that include/build on my prison privatization work. There's also a request for help translating some additional information about Shimane Asahi.


"A Model Prison for the next 50 years": The high-tech, public-private Shimane Asahi Rehabilitation Center" Justice Policy Journal v11#1 2014 (available free online - pdf)

ABSTRACT: The declining incarceration rate in America provides an opportunity to rethink the quality of prisons and ask: If you were told that your neighbors were newly released prisoners, what kind of institution would you want them to have served time in? One positive model of prison is a high-tech, public-private partnership prison that embraces rehabilitation, reentry and restorative justice – and that also strives to have the local community as a partner. The article reports on a visit to Shimane Asahi rehabilitation center in Japan. It provides background on the prison and Japan’s experiment with privatizing “social infrastructure.” The article then describes the involvement of the private sector and the infusion of technology, including tracking, scanners, and automated food delivery. Next, it provides an overview of numerous educational, therapeutic, and vocational programs. Finally, it discusses how the prison has a center for community engagement and makes many efforts to utilize the resources of the local region.


TEDxEMU: Thoughts from a day in a Japanese Prison

I actually did this talk before finishing the article, so it is not as sharp as how I would do it now. But I enjoyed the challenge of the time limit and trying to provide an inspiring direction. (12 minutes)


The University of Michigan's Osher Lifelong Learning Institute did a series of talks in 2014 on public-private partnerships, and I was invited to present on private prisons. The first half of this talk outlines the importance of getting the profit motive situated correctly with punishments, reviews the military-industrial complex, the prison-industrial complex and (the problems with) private prisons. The second part reviews what Japan did after studying our system: Their law created partnerships for rehabilitation centers, not prisons. The warden and his deputies are government employees who oversee a number of private sector contractors. It also includes some of the key info from the journal article noted above, with some pictures and graphics. I was pleased how this came out. 

Private Prisons in the US and Japan: Unleashing the profit Motive in Punishment and Rehabilitation

Download .pdf of presentation (4MB)

Download .pptx presentation (7MB)


I was also invited to be the keynote speaker for a Prison Awareness week sponsored by the University of Toledo's Law and Social Thought, and also by Toledoans for Prison Awareness. (Thanks to Alexandra Scarborough for the invite and arrangements.) This presentation has many of the same slides as the Osher lecture, but it is reshuffled and has more of an emphasis on prison reform. 

Thinking About A Post Warehouse Prison

Download .pdf of presentation (3MB)

Download .pptx presentation (8MB)

WGTE recorded the event for knowledgestream.org and the video is here. 



Shimane Asahi celebrated its 5th anniversary by having a symposium that presented evaluation results and updates on programs. They put those presentations together into a publication that I have a copy of, but I could use some help translating it from Japanese. (Here is the Table of Contents.) There are also two Japanese books on Shimane Asahi and would like to know more about what is in them. 

If you would be interested in translating or helping to underwrite some of the translation efforts, please contact me through the information on my website



Shimane Asahi website (English)

The problems with private prisons (2011 and 2013 presentations)

Why Private Prisons Do Not Save Money (2008)


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