Here in the United States, it depends upon which state you're considering -- some states have the death penalty, some do not. Some are zealous in executing those on Death Row (think Texas), others have inmates living on Death Row for years and years (think Oregon).
However, in Japan, things are different. Japan has the death penalty for treason and murder (usually, multiple murders with aggravating factors). There's only one method of execution: hanging. And the execution is performed within a prison facility, in an execution-designed room.
The Japanese inmate is told that he is going to die on the date of the execution. No advance notice. He or she does get a last meal of their choosing. No one is invited to watch the hanging, and the inmate's family (as well as his lawyers) are told of the death after the execution has taken place.
The Japanese Death Row is different than the United States, too. All Death Row inmates live in solitary confinement. Two exercise periods per week are given with no exercise allowed in the cells, and they can have only three books. No TV. Visits are not often and all visits are supervised. Death Row inmates cannot talk with each other.
This week, Japan executed Three Men
In a press release yesterday, the locals as well as the world learned that three men had been hung by the Japanese Government as punishment for their crimes. This brings the total number of executions in Japan for this year to 7 (Japan executed 4 men this past January). Last year, Japan carried out 15 death sentences.
The three men? All convicted of murder, ranging in age from 25 to 41. Hiroshi Maeue, 40, was convicted of three murders in 2005. Maeue was found guilty of finding victims through the internet, where they had posted on a type of suicide forum. Yukio Yamaji, 25, was convicted of the sexual assault and murder of two sisters, also in 2005. Chen Detong, 41, was convicted of the robbery and murder of three roommates, back in 1999. Two of the hangings took place in the Osaka facility, the third in Tokyo.
Let's Consider the Differences
Japan doesn't take as long to go from conviction to execution. There's no advance warning to the inmate, and there's no comfort to the inmate or his loved ones by any goodbye, or being present at the time of execution. Of course, the victims' families aren't allowed the opportunity of closure by being present at the execution, either. No lawyers are there. And, the method of execution is considered by many to be cruel and unusual punishment - one wonders why Japan doesn't follow the trend of lethal injection. Capital punishment may not happen as often as it does in the United States, but when it does occur it is a secretive event whose speed and absence of review and witness would not be tolerated here.
If there must be capital punishment in this country -- WHILE there is capital punishment in this country -- at least we can take some small measure of comfort in recognizing all the benefits that our due process protections provide us.
It is a horrific thing, to consider that the government kills its own citizens. But at least we get to be present to take comfort in being there for those last moments, and thank God we have procedures in place (like WITNESSES) to make sure those deaths are not cruel and inhumane.