The system of Volunteer Probation Officers (VPOs), or “Hogoshi”, in Japan is remarkable in its scale and range of duties. The VPO system is becoming increasingly well-known around the world, and the reasons are not difficult to understand.
VPOs in Japan are integral to the work of the probation services. Their central role is well-established, stemming from the first VPO Act in 1950 which allows for the appointment of 52,500 VPOs, a number which means they frequently offer the core and critical contact with justice-involved individuals in all but more serious cases.
VPOs are supported in their work by local and national Associations and guided and supported by formal arrangements with professional Probation Officers. Furthermore, the Japanese VPO system is complemented by other important volunteer organisations and about 22.000 “Cooperating Employers”.
Volunteers demonstrate the care of society, a belief that change is possible, and encourage optimism about an individual’s future. They also offer practical guidance and support in overcoming barriers to reintegration. As established members of the community, VPOs are well-placed to “demystify” probation practice and to encourage communities to accept and actively support reintegration.
VPOs are an inspirational example of public participation in work with offenders. Their role is described in more detail in the “Hogoshi” brochure prepared by the Japanese Rehabilitation Bureau. The Bureau will host an important forum on probation volunteering, with contributions from around the world addressing topics including models, roles, training and support, and impact on inclusion and desistance, to be held during the United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice which will take place, rescheduled dates to be notified, in Kyoto, Japan.
You can download the Hogoshi brochure here.