A Comparative Analysis of Juvenile Pre-Disposition in Japan and The United States 45
stage and may have more of a positive impact at the pre-disposition stage as juvenile procedures
become more standardized and less open to paternalism by probation officers and judges. It would
behoove both countries to draw from the relative strengths of each other’s pre-disposition reporting
and use of probation officers.
The United States should re-introduce the parens patriae concept into pre-disposition
reporting. First, the United States could employ juvenile probation officers with backgrounds in
fields such as child development and psychology, or following Japan’s example, the United States
could create specialized training programs for juvenile probation officers. These programs have
led to thorough pre-disposition reports from Japanese probation officers that analyze more aspects
of a juvenile’s life than United States probation officers currently explore. Second, the United
States should introduce funding into communities for the establishment and training of volunteer
probation officers. In Japan, community-based probation officers have allowed juveniles to stay
rooted in their neighborhoods, connect with local resources, and learn life skills from mentors.
Finally, the United States should look to programs such as the Tama Juvenile Training School for
an example of a disposition that is not probation but positively impacts juveniles. These positive
effects are at least partially due to the work of expert juvenile probation officers who are trained
to make these determinations, and whose role in Japan affords them more discretion than their
counterparts in the United States.
While the United States may benefit from revisiting the parens patriae idea, Japan would
do well to part with some of the vestiges of paternalism and informality still present in its system.
As Japan faces its own difficulties with juvenile crime, it should look to states like Connecticut
that have developed specialized probation divisions. 61 Adopting Connecticut’s specialized
divisions would allow Japan to cut against the norm of having a large network of generalist-volunteer probation officers and a small cadre of professional officers. In fact, specialization would
fit easily into the three-year training that juvenile officers in Japan already receive. 62 Further, Japan
should look to the United States for areas where so-called “constitutionalization” of the juvenile
court has proved gainful. 63 For instance, Japan currently does not allow the prosecutor to be present
at juvenile court and the youth is often not represented. 64 While the judge often relies “on the
expert advice of probation officers” for dispositions, this level of informality opens the door to
arbitrary dispositions, a lack of uniformity, and juveniles feeling jaded by a system if the level of
punishment does not match the level of formality. 65 By introducing procedural protections such as
notice to a child and his or her parent(s) of their right to counsel, the opportunity for confrontation,
and safeguards against self-incrimination, as the United States did in the In re Gault decision,
Japan can shed the pitfalls of parens patriae in their pre-disposition and disposition while
maintaining its system’s positive rehabilitative aims.
Japan and the United States may be thousands of miles apart, but their histories and juvenile
justice systems are more alike than they seem at first glance. The countries’ systems have diverged
over the years, but it is time that they look to each other for guidance, inspiration, and a reminder
of their similarities. Japan can learn from the formalization of juvenile justice in the United States
61 See generally Ito, supra note 36.
62 UNAFEI, supra note 35, at 149.
63 Hardung, supra note 34, at 154.
64 Hiroyuki, supra note 1, at 9.
65 Hardung, supra note 34, at 162.