Is This Cruel and Unusual Punishment?

 

I was reading an article in the Wall Street Journal this week. Here are some sentences describing someone’s imprisonment.

  • Alone in his cell, he isn’t permitted to leave (on weekends) for the 30 minutes of fresh air he gets on weekdays.
  • The lights burn 24 hours a day.
  • He can’t wear a watch and sometimes finds himself disoriented.
  • Authorities state this is “normal treatment.”
  • He has been interrogated for up to five hours a day, with no lawyer present.
  • Prosecutors can sometimes harangue suspects who choose to remain silent for ten hours a day.
  • The person is forced to sign statements in a foreign language that he cannot read.
  • Family members are not allowed to visit.
  • The cell has a window, but it is very deep in the wall and the prisoner cannot see out.
  • Prisoner is allowed a shower twice a week (three times a week in summer). Cold water is all he gets from the tap in his cell.

So, what do you think of this punishment being meted out, to a person imprisoned for a non-violent, financial crime? It sounds cruel and unusual to me, especially for a person charged with a white-collar crime, who has not yet had his day in court. He has not been convicted, or even tried, for this crime. He is being treated like a violent criminal, subject to conditions often found in high-security prisons.

Where do you think this might be happening? Some third-world country in Africa or Latin America? Nope, this is Japan. And the prisoner is a gentleman named Carlos Ghosn, who until recently was the CEO of an alliance between automakers Nissan of Japan and Renault of France. Mitsubishi of Japan was also a party to this alliance.

The companies had been thriving, producing cars for the world in multiple countries. He was very highly thought of, and a well-paid globetrotter, often jetting around the world to attend meetings and watch over all the factories. He has been accused of understating his salary and skimming funds from his corporations to pay for things for his family and himself. He has lost all of his jobs and has been in prison in Japan since mid-November of 2018, with only one month out of jail before being re-arrested and sent back to confinement.

This seems to me to be cruel and unusual punishment for a non-violent crime. How the mighty has fallen. I don’t think he deserves this kind of punishment. What do you think?

Cross-posted over at RushBabe49.com.

There are 33 comments.

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  1. Manny Member
    Manny
    @Manny

    RushBabe49: The person is forced to sign statements in a foreign language that he cannot read.

    That seems absurd.  What’s the point of that?  

    Yes, they seem somewhat extreme as punishments go.  I don’t want prison to be a country club but I don’t want to drive the person insane either.  

    • #1
  2. Randy Webster Member
    Randy Webster
    @RandyWebster

    I agree that it’s harsh for someone who hasn’t had a trial.  I disagree that it’s harsh for white collar crime.  White collar crime isn’t treated nearly as harshly as it should be.  Who does more damage to society, a guy who knocks over a liquor store, or a Bernie Madoff?  The reason we have so much white collar crime is that it’s treated so leniently.

    • #2
  3. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    So much for any plans on visiting Japan.

    • #3
  4. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    I think this is an example of different cultures. 

    The West is different. We have a lot to lose.

    • #4
  5. RushBabe49 Thatcher
    RushBabe49
    @RushBabe49

    Randy, this is pre-trial detention!  He has been in what amounts to solitary confinement before he is even tried, much less convicted.

    • #5
  6. Franco Member
    Franco
    @Franco

    My father was a prisoner there in 1943-45. It looks like things have improved quite a lot since then. 

    At first I thought you were describing Manafort’s conditions…

    • #6
  7. DonG Coolidge
    DonG
    @DonG

    I think all prisoners should be in solitary confinement.  Mixing redeemable people with irredeemable creates more irredeemable people.  The best shot a person has rehabilitation is isolation from bad influences.  It is the opposite of cruel, solitary is the path to salvation.  Just give everyone a 24×7 TV streaming Prager U. and the how to fix everything channel.

    • #7
  8. Sweezle Member
    Sweezle
    @Sweezle

    In our country we only treat our political prisoners like this. Like Trump surrogate Paul Manafort.

    • #8
  9. EB Thatcher
    EB
    @EB

    I agree that treatment of someone who hasn’t been convicted is harsh.  But having just seen the trailer for the movie Unbroken, it isn’t too surprising.  During the war, the Japanese were brutally savage as a matter of course, because non-Japanese were not considered human.  Given the fact that Ghosn is Brazilian/European, perhaps we should be glad that his treatment is not worse.

    I was a Resource Manager for a tech firm in the early aughts.  I was putting together staffing for an 18-month software implementation project in Japan.  One of our best techs was a black gentleman.  When I was discussing the proposed staff with an American manager in our Tokyo office, he said, “You can’t send a black consultant here.”  I started to give him a lecture and he said, “You don’t understand.  The guy would have to live in a hotel for a year and a half. It will be almost impossible to find a Japanese landlord that will rent to a black person.”

     

    • #9
  10. Addiction Is A Choice Member
    Addiction Is A Choice
    @AddictionIsAChoice

    Can we try Brennan in Japan? Asking for a friend.

    • #10
  11. Fake John/Jane Galt Coolidge
    Fake John/Jane Galt
    @FakeJohnJaneGalt

    This is Japan?  Figured it was the States.  Seems like pretty standard government treatment to me. 

    • #11
  12. She Member
    She
    @She

    Well, it seems harsh.  Then again, I look at the Wikipedia entry for “crime in Japan” (because I really don’t know much about the subject), and it leads with “Crime in Japan is among the lowest compared to other countries,” and goes on to say: 

    Of particular concern to the police are crimes associated with modernization. Increased wealth and technological sophistication has brought new white collar crimes, such as computer and credit card fraud, larceny involving coin dispensers, and insurance fraud. Incidence of drug abuse is minuscule, compared with other industrialized nations and limited mainly to stimulants. Japanese law enforcement authorities endeavor to control this problem by extensive coordination with international investigative organizations and stringent punishment of Japanese and foreign offenders. Traffic accidents and fatalities consume substantial law enforcement resources. There is also evidence of foreign criminals travelling from overseas to take advantage of Japan’s lax security. In his autobiography Undesirables, British criminal Colin Blaney stated that English thieves have targeted the nation due to the low crime rate and because Japanese people are unprepared for crime.[8] Pakistani, Russian, Sri Lankan, and Burmese car theft gangs have also been known to target the nation.

    So, perhaps, on balance, they’re doing something right, and it looks as though harsh treatment of those accused/convicted of the sorts of crimes Ghosn is accused of is deliberate.  (I understand the “but he hasn’t been convicted yet” aspect, but suspect that’s an argument that is largely confined to those with Western sensibilities.)

    • #12
  13. Hoyacon Member
    Hoyacon
    @Hoyacon

    The concept of cruel and unusual derives from the U.S. Constitution.  I don’t care for some of this, but do we not get upset when it’s suggested that the U.S. be informed by the laws/traditions of other countries and international tribunals?

    EDIT: Thankfully, no one called me on the fact that the term was first used in the English Bill of Rights (1689).  So I’ll call myself on it!  Still, it comes from the Anglo-American legal tradition, and likely from a time when “cruel and unusual” may have been a bit more expansive.

    • #13
  14. EB Thatcher
    EB
    @EB

    Hoyacon (View Comment):
    do we not get upset when it’s suggested that the U.S. be informed by the laws/traditions of other countries and international tribunals?

    Absolutely.  But that doesn’t mean we don’t have our own opinions about their laws and traditions.  

    • #14
  15. Jason Obermeyer Member
    Jason Obermeyer
    @JasonObermeyer

    Randy Webster (View Comment):

    Who does more damage to society, a guy who knocks over a liquor store, or a Bernie Madoff?

    The guy who knocks over the liquor store. It’s not even close and it’s frankly disturbing that people don’t instinctively get this. Violations of personal security, which would include holding up a liquor store, are always more serious violations than property crimes.

    Anglo-American criminal law has traditionally recognized this.  At common law, a burglary required breaking and entering a dwelling house at night because a dwelling house was likely to be occupied. A surreptitious pickpocket gets a lesser charge (theft) than a brazen mugger who directly threatens his victim (robbery) even if they end up with the same wallet.

    While I think your point is generally wrong, it is even more incorrect in the Madoff case. To be a victim in that case required abandoning every precaution a reasonable person should have in making an investment (skepticism about unusually high returns, not investing everything with one guy). Further, some of his “victims” weren’t victims at all in that they realized that it was a pyramid scheme and just thought they could get in and out before any collapse.

     

    • #15
  16. Roderic Fabian Reagan
    Roderic Fabian
    @rhfabian

    It’s their country, their system of justice.  Accused can be interrogated many times over a long period of time before being indicted in Japan.  These long interrogations usually end with confession.  The conviction rate if a person is indicted is 99%.

    Japan based their system of justice on European justice, particularly French justice.

    The penal theory is that criminals can be corrected through contrition, re-socialization, and reform. Prisons there are sort of like boot camps.

    Be nice if you visit Japan.

    • #16
  17. Randy Webster Member
    Randy Webster
    @RandyWebster

    Jason Obermeyer (View Comment):

    Randy Webster (View Comment):

    Who does more damage to society, a guy who knocks over a liquor store, or a Bernie Madoff?

    The guy who knocks over the liquor store. It’s not even close and it’s frankly disturbing that people don’t instinctively get this. Violations of personal security, which would include holding up a liquor store, are always more serious violations than property crimes.

    Anglo-American criminal law has traditionally recognized this. At common law, a burglary required breaking and entering a dwelling house at night because a dwelling house was likely to be occupied. A surreptitious pickpocket gets a lesser charge (theft) than a brazen mugger who directly threatens his victim (robbery) even if they end up with the same wallet.

    While I think your point is generally wrong, it is even more incorrect in the Madoff case. To be a victim in that case required abandoning every precaution a reasonable person should have in making an investment (skepticism about unusually high returns, not investing everything with one guy). Further, some of his “victims” weren’t victims at all in that they realized that it was a pyramid scheme and just thought they could get in and out before any collapse.

     

    We’ll have to agree to disagree.  There is a point at which property crimes become so egregious they’re at least as bad as violations of personal security.

    And I said “a” Madoff on purpose rather than Madoff.

    • #17
  18. ctlaw Coolidge
    ctlaw
    @ctlaw

    The merger of Renault and Nissan came at a time when Nissan was valued very low relative to its market share. That gave Renault and the French government which is its largest shareholder control over the final entity.  This is politically unacceptable for the Japanese who still regard themselves as the master race and do not allow gaijin to participate in their economy.

    • #18
  19. JimGoneWild Coolidge
    JimGoneWild
    @JimGoneWild

    I think Japan or certain people in Japan have it out for Carlos Ghosn. The charges are about him spending corporate money on personal activities but this is part of Japanese corporate culture. I don’t think we know the real story yet. Something just has never been right about all this.

    • #19
  20. ctlaw Coolidge
    ctlaw
    @ctlaw

    JimGoneWild (View Comment):
    I don’t think we know the real story yet. Something just has never been right about all this.

    As I noted, it’s a matter of national/corporate pride:

    But the Nissan chief, with his eye-catching criticisms of Ghosn’s management style, also seemed to be making a straightforward power-play with the aim of asserting more Japanese influence.

    or

    Nissan wants to use the removal of its chairman Carlos Ghosn as an opportunity to rebalance the alliance with Renault in its favour, according to four people with links to the Japanese carmaker’s board…

    Although Nissan is the larger company, with annual revenue nearly 60 per cent bigger than Renault’s, the French group exercises more control within the alliance, including the right to make some senior appointments in its partner’s management team.

    “This will put Nissan in a stronger position,” one person familiar with the Japanese carmaker’s stance said. Nissan’s attempt to reassert itself comes as the future of the alliance, which also includes Mitsubishi Motors, hangs in the balance.

    or

    Nissan is deeply resentful that is has to hand over billions of profits to Renault every year. That’s because Renault owns 43% of Nissan, while Nissan only owns 15% of Renault and those shares have no voting power. So Renault runs the show, even though Nissan is bigger and far more profitable.

    The French government also owns 15% of Renault and it likes the way things are. It’s been tone deaf to Nissan’s pleas to give it more say in the grand Alliance between Renault, Nissan and Mitsubishi. So now the Japanese have everyone’s attention. Renault also has two French executives on the Nissan board. They better behave like Boy Scouts because the Japanese are going to find every excuse to get rid of them. One thing’s for sure, this boardroom battle is far from over.

    • #20
  21. EB Thatcher
    EB
    @EB

    ctlaw (View Comment):
    As I noted, it’s a matter of national/corporate pride

    I’ve been reading a mystery series set in present-day Tokyo.  If the stories are at all accurate, it appears that the government/corporate world in Japan is extremely corrupt.  

    • #21
  22. ctlaw Coolidge
    ctlaw
    @ctlaw

    FCA is proposing to merge with Renault. There are two related aspects to this.

    First, it might make Renault (and the French government) less dominant in the overall Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi-FCA family, saving face for Nissan. For example, could it put Nissan in the deciding position if there was a disagreement between FCA and Renault interests?

    Second, it may provide a “plan B” for Renault if the Japanese government forces a divorce of Nissan and Mitsubishi from Renault.

    • #22
  23. ctlaw Coolidge
    ctlaw
    @ctlaw

    Ghosn sues in the Netherlands:

    https://www.reuters.com/article/us-renault-nissan-ghosn/carlos-ghosn-sues-nissan-mitsubishi-in-the-netherlands-paper-idUSKCN1UF063

    • #23
  24. ctlaw Coolidge
    ctlaw
    @ctlaw

    Ghosn escapes to Lebanon:

    https://www.foxbusiness.com/business-leaders/ghosn-in-lebanon-says-he-left-japan-because-of-injustice

    • #24
  25. ctlaw Coolidge
    ctlaw
    @ctlaw

    Perhaps he’ll recall why he left Lebanon:

    https://www.timesofisrael.com/lebanese-lawyers-want-ex-chief-of-nissan-prosecuted-over-2008-israel-trip/

    • #25
  26. RushBabe49 Thatcher
    RushBabe49
    @RushBabe49

    He can’t win now, can he?  Most of his alternatives are bad.  This is the kind of situation that leads to suicide.

    • #26
  27. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    ctlaw (View Comment):

    Perhaps he’ll recall why he left Lebanon:

    https://www.timesofisrael.com/lebanese-lawyers-want-ex-chief-of-nissan-prosecuted-over-2008-israel-trip/

    “Project Better Place?” I could see being drafted into a “Project Shameless Marketing Boondoggle,” but if it was called “Project Better Place,” I’m bugging out.

    • #27
  28. ctlaw Coolidge
    ctlaw
    @ctlaw

    RushBabe49 (View Comment):

    He can’t win now, can he? Most of his alternatives are bad. This is the kind of situation that leads to suicide.

    Likely the least of his worries. Iran’s next move may cause Lebanon to be flattened.

    • #28
  29. ctlaw Coolidge
    ctlaw
    @ctlaw

    ctlaw (View Comment):

    FCA is proposing to merge with Renault. There are two related aspects to this.

    First, it might make Renault (and the French government) less dominant in the overall Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi-FCA family, saving face for Nissan. For example, could it put Nissan in the deciding position if there was a disagreement between FCA and Renault interests?

    Second, it may provide a “plan B” for Renault if the Japanese government forces a divorce of Nissan and Mitsubishi from Renault.

    FCA has instead merged with PSA. That makes things interesting for Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi or their individual components if Japan forces a breakup. VW and FCA/PSA are probably too big to merge with and would leave Europe with a duopoly on mass market manufacturers.

    A merger with Ford could only occur after a Ford bankruptcy due to the stock structure that keeps the Ford family in control.

    Given Nissan’s substantial US market share, particularly in passenger cars, a merger with GM would draw significant antitrust scrutiny. But a Renault-GM merger would be a possibility. Would Nissan go it alone or perhaps then try to merge with FCA/PSA?

    • #29
  30. RushBabe49 Thatcher
    RushBabe49
    @RushBabe49

    Well, Europe is trying their best to kill the gas-powered automobile (regardless of whether the PEOPLE want electric cars), so whoever promises more EVs sooner, might just get by the anti-trust cops.  Most of the big auto makers have bowed down before the god of “climate-change” and committed to building an all-electric fleet in the foreseeable future, again regardless of what the buying public wants.  It will be interesting to see in the next few years how it all shakes out.  Personally, I don’t care what they do.

    On the subject of Carlos Ghosn, perhaps he should seek refuge in Israel.  He has already visited there once, and they might be sympathetic to his plight.  I’m guessing that they don’t have any extradition agreements with anyone.

    • #30
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