Society for Cultural Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
Older offenders in Japan are not only the fastest growing incarcerated demographic, but they also have a higher recidivism rate than any other age group. While older offenders elsewhere are commonly associated with long or indeterminate sentences resulting in a continuous aging in prison, most older prisoners in Japan are serving short sentences for petty crimes such as shoplifting. This paper looks at how this pattern of re-offending constitutes a particular way of growing older as “doing time,” encompassing a range of practices, habits, and moods that spill across the borders of carceral spaces. While concepts like the ‘carceral continuum’ help us think about the fragility of narratives of offender rehabilitation in light of tenacious social inequalities, they also run the risk of eliding the temporal textures of individuals’ life courses. Doing time opens up possibilities for rethinking the carceral continuum not only in terms of long, continuous and relatively stable stretches of incarceration, but as an oscillating movement between spaces of care and abandonment. As Sufrin (2017) observes, recidivism and care are not only “sutured," but produce a "rhythm" over the life course that both connects and separates the lifeworld inside and outside of custody. Drawing on fieldwork and interviews with older ex-offenders in the Greater Tokyo area, this paper argues for a need to critically question not only the ethics of incarcerating older people with care needs, but also current approaches to offender resettlement based on the moral return to normative temporal embodiment.