"My life is much easier in prison. I can be myself and breathe, however temporarily"

Elderly Japanese women are getting themselves incarcerated in order to fight loneliness.

According to The Independent, elderly Japanese women who wish to escape isolation are turning to incarceration.

20% of Japanese prisons are senior citizens with 90% of them committing minor offences such as shoplifting. 50% of those who shoplifted live alone whilst 40% did not have families or relatives.

Speaking about these women, head warden of Iwakuni Women’s Prison, Yumi Muranaka said, “They may have a house. They may have a family. But that doesn’t mean they have a place they feel at home.”

“They feel they are not understood. They feel they are only recognised as someone who gets the house chores done.”

Almost half of women aged over 65 are living in poverty and prison provides a chance to escape their domestic lives.

An 80-year-old inmate named Ms T said her life in prison was much better than her normal life. Ms T revealed that it was hard for her to look after her husband due to her age.

“My husband had a stroke six years ago and has been bedridden ever since,” she said, “He also has dementia and suffers from delusions and paranoia It was a lot to take care of him physically and emotionally because of my old age. But I couldn’t talk about my stress with anyone because I was ashamed.”

She then turned to a life of crime, seeking solace in prison. “I was imprisoned for the first time when I was 70,”  “When I shoplifted, I had money in my wallet. Then I thought about my life.”

“I didn’t want to go home, and I had nowhere else to go. Asking for help in prison was the only way. My life is much easier in prison. I can be myself and breathe, however temporarily.”

“My son tells me I’m ill and I should be hospitalised in a mental institution and take it easy. But I don’t think I’m ill. I think my anxiety drove me to steal.”

Some prison staff even feel like their jobs are more like those of a nursing home attendant rather than correctional officers.

Satomi Kezuka, an officer at Tochigi Women’s Prison, said, “[The women] are ashamed and hide their underwear. I tell them to bring it to me, and I will have it washed.”