It was some 40 years ago when I started to visit correctional institutions as a prison chaplain and a volunteer interviewer. I have often spent my time praying and encouraging young people to build firmly their own future, by finding themselves and by not disturbing people any more once they come out of prison.
In all movie theaters there are emergency exits on both sides of the hall. Juvenile delinquents can be looked on in that way. They ran into crimes forced by the circumstances. They stopped at the red lights and went into a reformatory. There they had time to reflect on their lives to make solid plans for the future. Some of them are able to proceed naturally in society once they come out, but there are others who can hardly live by themselves, and sometimes we are bearing the burden of supporting them.
Responsibility of the Parents

There is nothing in this world for which there is no reason. Why is it that some young persons remain as delinquents? If the young can not understand the reason, they continue the same mistakes. Children grow looking at adults from the back. I have always said that parents, not the children, are the ones who should be brought to Juvenile Classification Offices. Confined there for 4 weeks they could reflect on their lives and how to change them. If parents dialogue with each other children will not go astray. The fact that there is not enough dialogue in Japanese homes is the source of many problems.
When I visit correction institutions I leave at 7:30 in the morning and come home at 5 in the afternoon. It is the rush hour, a time to study people. In the trains I often observe that 6 persons are seated in places for 7 persons, without caring for the ones standing. People are comfortably unconcerned, maybe reading a book or half asleep. Such is the image grown ups show to children. As soon as the door of the train opens, people run to a vacant seat. Senior citizens have to stand because people do not offer them a seat. Children see adults as persons thinking only of themselves and tend to imitate them. I have little knowledge of other countries, but I think that if Japan continues to go as is now, it will become frightful. There will be no place for weak people. Adults must show small children how to respect the rights of others. People should not do to others anything they themselves dislike. Words and action should meet and thus parents should make their children remember the joy of loving others, something they do not do. The only thing children realize is that they are loved. Since childhood children receive everything and they are not accustomed to make sacrifices. Children observe how parents work from early morning to evening to earn money and thus, the only important thing for them in this world is money. Since there is nothing interesting at home, they play with their friends outside. They look for something exciting and they squeeze cigarettes on each other arms, betting to see who is going to endure it more. As the mass media reports every day, teenagers, organized in groups, bully the weaker ones and go around stealing money. All this is the result of seeds sown by the adults. In old times, crimes were often the result of poverty, but nowadays affluent society provokes delinquency.
Page - 1
Money makes everything possible. Parents do not want their little children cry and often they suffer and cry once their children grew up. A tree takes shape when it is still young, but nothing can be done after it grows. It is very important that during childhood people are trained to control themselves. If in family life parents help each other, children will learn to do it naturally, afterwards. In my interviews with children I find that they never criticize grown-ups. They often cry. They want to leave as soon as possible correction and to be accepted by their own families. They do not want to live as they did up to now, once they form their own families. Whenever I ask them what happiness means to them, their answer is: "to sit the four members of the family together and enjoy a simple meal at home." Money is sometimes the cause of unhappiness and breaks up family life. When family links are strengthened juvenile delinquency falls. It is important that families hold together in unity. When children are made to experience joy in helping others, they become persons able to love.
Interview Cases

A 16-year old girl.
she was always a good student and her parents were proud of that and made boastful talks about her bright qualities for studies. She could not stand that anymore and her patience exploded. Then one day she took the family's bankbook and left home with her boy friend. A few months later she was taken into custody and came to see me complaining about her parents. Her criticism hit the point: "My parents did not think of me. They were just proud of my school marks. I wanted my mother to take more interest in me, not in my study records".
Unless parents realize that their children are not their own property, problems will continue. God gave children to them, and only when children ask parents for advice concerning their future, it is enough to give them answers. Sometimes parents make decisions for them creating their unhappiness. Let children decide their own futures. Dialogue between parents and their children is the key to understanding. Primary school children obey their parents, but when they enter Junior Middle school they want to become more independent. If parents are not careful they fail in their efforts.
The young girl calmed down and her parents came to pick her and talked with her. Failure is the source of success. The family, reunited again, returned happily home.
A Second-year Junior Middle School Boy.
He came from a fatherless family and his mother annoyed him. He disliked home, because as soon as he returned home his mother would always tell him "do your homework". Finally, angry at the remarks about studying more, he took a knife and stabbed his mother to death. I told him "no matter how much you think about the matter now, your mother will not come back to life again. Try to become a person useful to society so that the sacrifice of your mother's life does not become wasted. Do not remain in your past. If you are openhearted you will not repeat the same mistake again".
Page - 2
A 16-year old Youngster.
His family had to suffer a lot from him. One day he was driving recklessly, had an accident, and lost conscience. The parents finally relieved began preparations for his funeral, but in the meantime his grandfather passed away. Since both had been very good friends the parents wanted to conduct the funeral for both at the same time. Then, a month later, to the astonishment of the whole family, the youngster, recovering his consciousness, cried out in a loud voice calling for his grandfather. When I met him later he told me what had happened: "I was playing with my grandfather when I, suddenly, heard from him 'go back home'. Sir, what does all this mean?" Then, I explained to him that the desire of his grandfather was for him to go back home totally recovered, so that he could make his family happy. He understood it.
A second-year High School Boy.
Another boy told me his story. "Sir, please believe the story I'm going to tell you. I was riding a motorbike at full speed holding the helmet in my arm. Then, all of a sudden a car came in front of me and I hit it. I was thrown up the sky and fell to the ground. When I realized it I had the helmet on my head. What could be the meaning of such a strange happening?" I answered him that, although he might not believe it, God had guarded him and saved his life. From now on, he should stop leading a wild life and strive to bring joy to his family and the people around him, in order to answer the new challenges from God.
An Eighteen-year Old Girl.
I began the interview when, to my astonishment, the girl started to pray the 'Our Father'. I asked her whether she was a Christian. She answered that she had attended a Catholic Kindergarten and sometimes her mother had brought her to church. She was from a fatherless family. She became a drug addict and had an abortion. Much of her life had been a real hell. I asked her, "Don't you think that God came to your help when you were a child?" She answered me, "Once I heard clearly the voice of God. I was called by my own name and told to stop using drugs. Please believe it, it was not just my imagination." In spite of her hearing the voice, she went to the drug-pushers to buy more drugs. When she was there the police came and took her in custody. I later received a letter from her: "Please, help me. My mother is in a critical condition. Tell me what to do while I still remain in prison". I asked her to shout to God and to ask him for help, to pray to God to keep her mother alive till she comes out of prison to take care of her. God hears her cries and does not leave her alone. God is different from us humans and is always on the side of the weak and the sick. She has already experienced the divine guidance. God had called her, but since she refused to follow his advice God was instrumental in having the police taking care of her and sending her to a hospital, so that she could be totally healed in body and soul. From now on everything is up to her.
Page - 3
A 20-year old Youth.
There is a special reformatory in Kurihama. One of the inmates had always been playing around without any work to do and thus he seemed qualified for jail. When I met him there he could not lead community life and lived in solitary confinement. He was always looking forwards to my weekly visit. He was a person of violent psychological moves. "Sir --he said-- I decided to stop my past life and marry to build a family, as everybody else, in order to give peace and joy to those I made suffer so much. When I think about it I feel an astonishing peace of heart and deep joy." I told him that as soon as the past experiences come to his mind his present feeling will disappear and the life he is thinking now would be impossible to him. People deeply affected by drugs and pleasures can hardly lead a normal life. He will be in tension and might reach for suicide. He was worrying about all the moves of his heart and it was not easy at all to explain to him what to do. I told him about my Christian faith. The devil feels bitter when a person is happy and tries by all means to bring obstacles like instant pleasures, so that people feel attracted by them. But the results of such a life are (1) mental institutions (2) prisons and (3) death. The devil manipulates persons making them egoistic and destroying their joy and peace of heart. God, as I explained before, moves their hearts to assist others, so that people forget themselves to make others happy. When a person concentrates on this s/he finds happiness. God gives strength but leaves responsibility to people.
Letter from an internee at Aiko Girls' Reformatory.
"Teacher, How are you? I feel now that it was good for me to have entered this place. But, I often felt ashamed and went through much suffering. Because of my physical condition I should not have a baby but I became pregnant and everybody, my family included, put pressure on me to abort, not to take the risk of giving birth to a deformed baby. I remembered you and under the belief that God had entrusted a human life to me, I escaped from home in order to give birth to my baby. I named her "Aichan" (My Love). Please, teacher, share my joy. Thank you very much".
At the time of the Kurihama's special reformatory I was given the responsibility of youngsters in solitary confinement. It was very tough.
A 20-year old youngster with a 120 IQ.
He became crazy and tried to commit suicide several times. The guards had a hard time to control him and put him in solitary confinement to save his life. His hands and feet were scuffed and they rolled a blanket around his body; they inserted bamboo in his mouth. When I visited him in his cell I took off the bamboo and then he cried "Sir, kill me now". I answered him, "What are you saying? If I could I will place myself instead of you. Don't you realize you have something money never could buy? Yes, you are young. Look! Try these chocolates. Make efforts so that you can soon eat this way."
Page - 4
When he was finally transferred to a common room he showed the wounds of his hands and feet to a Buddhist monk chaplain who placed a complaint to the prison authorities. When he behaved violently the handcuffs closed giving him much pain. I always repeat to the young inmates that while they are in prison the guards keep an eye on them to save their lives.
A common Cell.
One of the prisoners was going to take his driving license the next day. The other two inmates decided to kill that impertinent companion the same evening. One of them put nails in between his fingers and hid them with a small towel tightly rolled around the hand, and when the other fellow was sleeping he stabbed and smashed one eye. Although both of them conducted the crime, only one of them took the responsibility.
When I interviewed him he told me he regretted not to have killed the other. I just listened. They started the investigation and the Director called me and asked me whether I knew if both of them were accomplices in the crime. I told him, "all I know is that one of them was the criminal. When the emotions of these teenagers run high, these people are not in an attitude of listening and one must wait till they calm down." The one who took full responsibility was tattooed all over. Although he looked like a demon, he told his friend, "I'll go to prison instead of you, hold out!"
In prison he encountered God and asked to be baptized. I was astonished and asked him why he wanted baptism. He answered that the Church was the boat that will bring him to the eternal harbor and baptism was the ticket to ride on the boat. Although I thought that was an interesting approach, I advised him to go to Church as soon as he leaves prison and to receive baptism there. He runs now his own company and has a family with 2 children. The other companion has gone to jail several times and has finally entrusted his child to his wife, handing over to her his Karaoke Pub to help them financially, leaving behind the following note, "Do not search for me. If a man who will make you happy appears, marry him." He came to say farewell to me and then disappeared.
I tell the inmates that, unless we become friends and they really desire it, I will not talk religion. Only when they ask me I answer their doubts; do I touch on religious matters. In any event, the internees observe and test us very often. The task of chaplains and voluntary interviewers is to stand in between the inmates and the prison guards. Remembering the saying of Jesus Christ we must be "wise like a snake".
Page - 5
The Two Ways of Life

At the beginning of my interviews I introduce myself and show them a simple graph I wrote on a paper.
[ Graph 1]

The 1st graph shows two different approaches to social life. Then I ask them, "Before you entered here what kind of life did you have? An inward looking life-style or an outward looking one?" Most of them are able to give a correct answer. The inward looking persons are attracted by pleasures and have lived flashy lives. They usually end in a mental hospital, a prison and in death. Those with outward looks walk building their future.
[ Graph 2 ]

Then, I show them a 2nd graph with the shape of an egg. An egg is a symbol of life. "What does a chick do to leave the egg?" I ask them. Their answer is that it must break the shell. Then, I invite them to reflect on their present life; in the reformatory they encounter themselves, as being spiritually sick in their hearts. They will be reborn again.
I usually tell them that they are not in a reformatory, but in a technical school. It is not a jail but a Science Faculty of a university. They should endeavor till they accomplish the goals they are looking for. I call the sickness of the heart the "worm" of the heart. If one realizes that s/he carries a worm in the heart s/he can disregard it. My witty remarks make them enjoy the interviews.
Page - 6
Ways to Prevent Juvenile Delinquency

Serious crimes are on the increase and as a result there is much public discussion on the need of revising the Juvenile Act. The real issue is not the teenagers but the families and the schools, but since it is difficult to deal with education in the families and schools, adults look for ways to abuse young people instead of defending them. The most important way to prevent juvenile delinquency is to change the environment that facilitates crime, not to punish heavily the weak youngsters. Take the issue of drugs, for instance. If we really want to keep the youth off drugs, warm family relationships are necessary, as well as to punish severely drug traffickers doing profit business. And if we want to stop girl prostitution we should first start from the schools and families teaching moral sexuality, punishing heavily those men who buy girls. Molesters of women are, of course, doing wrong but girls wearing mini-mini skirts are also blamable. If one places a container with gasoline in front of an arsonist he will put fire to it.
Things to be remembered in an interview:
  1. There is always a reason for anything in this world. It is important to reflect on what would be this person's reasons for doing wrong.
  2. Nobody is bad. Why did the person enter a reformatory or jail?
  3. Self-egoism leads to a hospital, a jail and death.
I end here. Let the people reflect and do their best, leaving the rest to Providence.
Page - 7