Penal Populism and the Quantity of Laws with Harsher Punishment in Japan

This paper analyses the Japanese lawmaking process of laws with harsher punishment from a quantitative perspective. While a tendency toward harsher punishment is common in advanced Western countries, a similar tendency in Japan has prompted scholarly discussion on whether it can be understood through the “penal-populism” framework. However, it lacks in systematic evidence. This paper extracts laws with harsher punishment from all legislation passed by the Japanese Diet from 1990 to 2016 (N=3427). By using the data, this paper examines the time-series variation of legislation with harsher punishment, compares legislation with harsher punishment and one without harsher punishment, and reviews policymakers' justifications of these laws. Through this analysis, this paper aims for constructing new explanatory framework of the severer criminal justice policy in Japan.