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Balancing Guidance with Enforcement Key to Continued Success of Probation Orders

1   The Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) announced in its Probation and Community Rehabilitation Service (PCRS) 2019 Annual Report that 538 new Probation Orders were issued in 2019. About 83 per cent of those placed on probation were below the age of 21.

2   MSF believes that a multi-pronged approach is key to successful rehabilitation. It requires intentional work with probationers, their families and support networks and the wider community, to bring about positive change. This approach has enabled the completion rates of Probation Orders in 2019 to remain high at 80 per cent.

3   "Research, evidence-informed practices and policies remain the basis of our work. We know the probation journey has positively impacted our probationers when we see them accepting responsibility for their actions, making amends, contributing to society, staying clear of offending, and generally making good of their lives. Witnessing these changes is powerful; it is what keeps Probation Officers going as they work through complex circumstances to bring about these sustainable changes," said Ms Carmelia Nathen, Chief Probation Officer and Director of PCRS. "We will continue to strengthen our policies and practices and focus on quality service to enhance rehabilitation outcomes."

Probation Involving Rehabilitation, Making Amends and Accountability

4   75 per cent of Probation Orders in 2019 ranged between 18 to 24 months in duration. Probationers with more complex risk and needs are provided additional intervention and support and may be ordered to comply with restrictive conditions. In 2019, 51 per cent of the new Probation Orders included a period of residency in a hostel, such as the Singapore Boys' Hostel (SBHL), or electronic monitoring. Such conditions, coupled with rehabilitative approaches, inculcate values such as discipline, structure, responsibility and being mindful of the consequences of one's actions.

5   One of PCRS' core rehabilitative approaches, Restorative Practice (RP), focusses on the wrongdoer being held accountable for his/her actions, acknowledging the harm caused to others and making amends. The SBHL works closely with PCRS to deliver the principles of RP in a hostel setting. Using Restorative Circles, a key component of RP, residents and staff come together to address issues such as infringements or conflicts in a safe and guided manner. The residents are given the space to share their feelings and difficulties openly and correct their wrongdoing, which aids in conflict management, inculcates in them a greater sense of responsibility and fosters stronger relationships.

6   Apart from hostel residence and electronic monitoring, probationers could also be required to comply with conditions such as time restrictions, attending treatment programmes and performing community service. Probationers with poor progress can be brought back to Court, and the Court will decide if the Probation Order should continue or be revoked. In 2019, 90 Probation Orders were revoked, of which 71 per cent was due to persistent failures to comply with probation conditions, despite the necessary interventions and warnings. The remaining 29 per cent of the Orders were revoked due to the commission of new offences.

Collaboration is Key to Rehabilitation Process

7   International research shows that positive engagement with the family, school and supportive adults are associated with improved rehabilitation outcomes. PCRS collaborated with MSF's Clinical and Forensic Psychology Service on a Randomised-Controlled Trial on Functional Family Therapy, and with the National Council of Social Service's Translational Social Research team on the Probation Success Study.

8   Findings from these studies reinforce the critical role families and supportive adults play in the rehabilitation process. These insights have led PCRS to further its work by piloting Functional Family Probation (FFP®) in January 2020, a family-focused case management approach, the first of its kind in the region.

9   PCRS' strong collaborations with schools and community agencies play an important role in creating opportunities for probationers to build life skills, meaningful networks of support and a sense of resilience and hope, leading to sustainable changes. This includes partnerships with:

• Hatch, a social enterprise that runs job training and matching programmes in the digital marketing sector. Hatch believes that many probationers have untapped potential in this area and supports them in honing their skills for employment.

• The Muscular Dystrophy Association of Singapore (MDAS), which gives probationers an opportunity to support others and gain new experiences. Over several months, selected probationers partnered individuals with muscular dystrophy to prepare for the National Boccia Competition. Through the experience, these probationers demonstrated empathy and learnt the value of going beyond their interests to commit to the success of others.

A Success Case: Balancing Accountability with Community Support

10   The importance of multiple parties working in collaboration to bring about change can be seen in the story of Adam (not his real name), who was 18 years old when he was placed on probation for criminal intimidation and voluntarily causing hurt. He struggled to comply with the conditions of probation. He despaired when his ex-girlfriend denied him access to their son, and relapsed into drug consumption to cope. He was brought back to Court and further restrictions were imposed.

11   The key to Adam's rehabilitation was the consistent community support throughout his journey, including assistance from his Probation Officer, a mentor at a faith-based agency, his employer and his officers during National Service. His Probation Officer worked with him to identify his triggers for offending while working through his family to motivate him. Adam's harmful patterns of behaviour were replaced with a sense of direction in life, positive coping strategies and constructive engagement in work and National Service. Adam has since completed his probation successfully. Adam's story highlights the significance of the family, community and the State working together to support probationers in their rehabilitation journey.

Annex A: 2019 Annual Report

Annex B: Questions and Answers

 

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