‘Penal populism’ and penological change in contemporary Japan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)


This article examines whether the concept of penal populism can be useful in understanding contemporary developments in Japanese criminal justice. In addressing this issue it is suggested that we need to draw a clear distinction between different conceptions of penal populism and, in particular, we should avoid equating penal populism with intensification of the severity of state punishment. A discussion of the Japanese experience highlights the importance of focusing on populism as a process by which new voices emerge and influence criminal justice policy as a result of an unmet demand for justice and security. This perception of a lack of security and justice is a global phenomenon that, nevertheless, expresses itself in distinctive, culturally specific ways. Although the extent of this shift should not be exaggerated, at least in a Japanese context, penal populism has contributed to an opening up of criminal justice and a disaggregation of state sovereignty.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)215-231
Number of pages17
JournalTheoretical Criminology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - May 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Law


Dive into the research topics of '‘Penal populism’ and penological change in contemporary Japan'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this