Although the Hiroshima Carp are Japan’s most cash-strapped pro baseball club, they do come up with some pretty interesting merchandise. For something a little different, however, how about an official Carp wallet made by local prisoners?
Inmates at Hiroshima Prison in Yoshijima have been producing pouches sporting the Carp logo since the summer of 2014. These are no bootleg goods as they have been given permission by the Carp organization to use their official logo free of charge.
Due to the high level of skill required, only 3 or 4 of the 80 or so inmates working in one of the prison’s two textile factories, which mostly produce items such as pajamas, kids trousers and sheets [ja], are engaged in producing two styles of pouch. One is in the shape of baseball uniform sporting the Carp logo on the front and player names and numbers on the back. The pouch, which sells for ¥500, uses reflective material to help with road safety when dangling from a bag or belt. Most surprising, considering their semi-official status, is that they have the words Hiroshima Prison [“廣島 (the old characters for Hiroshima) PRISON”] boldly embroidered on them. The other design is a larger pouch, which goes for ¥1000, to hold a bank book. It has a special pocket in which the user can keep a card with the telephone number of a family member to call in the event of being targeted in a telephone scam.
About 220 of the pouches are made each month and the 50 or so that have gone on sale in autumn at Mazda Stadium for the past two years have sold out in just 10 minutes. According to the Chugoku Shinbun, the pouches can be bought from the Japan Correctional Association office at the prison and the little uniform pouches can also be picked up at the driving center in Saeki-ku.
According to the Ministry of Justice,
Prison work imposed on sentenced inmates is so organized as to enhance re-entry into society through not only providing inmates with vocational knowledge and skills, but also be enhancing mental and physical health and the will to work, and encouraging inmates to become more conscious of their role and responsibility in community life.
Inmates work about 8 hours a day, Monday or Friday with a 20 minute break in the morning and afternoon, as well as a 40 minute lunch break. As with other aspects of prison life in Japan, there are many rules which are strictly enforced. Workers are not allowed to talk, nor to look at anything other than what they are looking at. Making eye contact with a fellow prisoner or a guard is prohibited and punishable.
The inmates don’t work for free. Again from the MoJ,
… incentive remuneration is for the purposes of encouraging their work and providing them with funds for rehabilitation after being released from the penal institution.
The MoJ goes on to say that the average monthly incentive remuneration was |4,723 in 2011. A 1995 Human Rights Watch report, however, stated that former prisoners (not necessarily from Hiroshima Prison) reported earning significantly less than that. They were also allowed to spend only about one-fifth of these earnings on articles such as toiletries or stationery, the remainder being kept for them in a savings account.
Officials at Hiroshima Prison have been quoted as saying that the chance to work on popular products related to the Carp is a great encouragement to the inmates involved, and on a visit last November, Minister of Justice Iwaki Mitsuhide, expressed his gratitude to the Hirohsima Carp for being the sole pro-baseball team to allow their name to be associated with prison labor.
Sannkei Shinbun (Osaka) and Chugoku Shinbun (unfortunately the articles are no longer on the newspapers respective websites).