In the ‘regulatory state’ mode of governance, some regulatory functions are outsourced to private actors (Levi-Faur 2013, 2014). Civil oversight of secure or ‘closed’ environment like prisons is one example. In this regulatory mechanism, ordinary members of society are asked to inspect a prison periodically to enhance accountability and transparency.
The ACT civil prison oversight system echoes modern Eurocentric norms, like those in the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT). This style of civil prison oversight has been widely championed – for decades – as preventing human rights abuses and promoting reform (e.g. Owers, 2006-2014). But there has been little or no empirical evidence for these benefits. Meanwhile, the Japanese system adopts a 19th century German model, which predates modern human rights discourse. This sharp divergence in design raises a number of fascinating questions, with implications for what we regard as universal, and what particular.
This presentation reports on the empirical insights gained in a four-year comparative empirical study of civil prison oversight in Japan and the Australian Capital Territory. The study investigated the nature and impact of both systems, as seen by over 2500 prisoners, corrections officers and civil overseers.
Overall, the presentation will argue that this study supports the utility of adopting a nodal analysis of how regulatory systems and institutions develop and change, rather than the comparative yardstick approaches that have characterized much of the comparative scholarship in the Asia-Pacific to date (Miyazawa, 2013; Braithwaite 2015; Liu & Miyazawa 2018; Okano & Sugimoto 2018).
Carol Lawson is a doctoral candidate in the ANU College of Law, and a visiting researcher at both the ANU School of Regulation and Global Governance (RegNet), and the Osaka University Graduate School of Law. Her career has focused on contributing to global access to, and comparative insights into Asian law, as well as equipping an emerging generation of Asian and Australian lawyers with comparative and practical legal skills.