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Singapore Government

Completion Rate Of Probation Orders Remained High In 2020 With Strong Collaboration With Community Parners And Support Of Technology

Completion Rate Of Probation Orders Remained High In 2020 With Strong Collaboration With Community Parners And Support Of Technology


Published On
04 Jun 2021

The Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) announced today that the completion rate of Probation Orders closed in 2020 remained high at 82%, despite the challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. This was made possible by harnessing technology and building on the strong network of partnerships nurtured over the years to deliver its services.

2.          MSF believes that effective rehabilitation requires targeted work with probationers and their families, with the support of the wider community. In the Probation and Community Rehabilitation Service (PCRS) 2020 Annual Report released today, 428 new Probation Orders were reported to be issued in 2020, of which about 83% were for probationers below the age of 21. To ensure the rehabilitation of probationers was not disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, PCRS adapted its service delivery and mobilised community partners swiftly to complement its efforts.

Adapting Service Delivery and Harnessing Technology

3.          To safeguard the health of the probationers, their families, and the Probation Officers, Probation Officers switched to virtual modes for most of the individual and family sessions, rehabilitative programmes and case conferences with partners. Engagement tools such as drawings, videos and online worksheets were customised and used to suit probationers’ learning needs. Physical sessions with safe management measures continued to be conducted for probationers with more complex needs or who showed poor progress on probation. Probationers were also reminded to be socially responsible and abide by the COVID-19 safe management measures.

4.          Recognising the stressors brought about by the pandemic, extra care was taken to check in regularly with probationers on areas such as family relationships, emotional well-being and financial circumstances. Where needed, Probation Officers referred families to support services.

5.          MSF also leveraged technology as a communication and rehabilitation tool, recognising the strong tech-savviness of our youth and the prevalence of a gaming culture amongst them:

    a.          PCRS piloted RehabProtect, a mobile application designed for caseworkers and clients. The application aims to instil greater ownership in probationers and their guardians over their probation journey. The application allows probationers to schedule reporting sessions, track their progress on rehabilitation programmes and community service and access relevant resources. The application also streamlines administrative tasks involved in case management, allowing Probation Officers to spend more time with their probationers.
    b.          PCRS is currently exploring the digitalisation of two core rehabilitation programmes - Victim Impact, and Law and Order. The proposed digitalisation includes an online gaming format, where probationers make decisions on real-life challenges and risky situations as part of a game. There are also educative and applied learning components which disseminates key concepts and captures the probationers’ reflections and choices made in the game. The programme will be conducted on a digital platform, and the probationers’ interaction with and response to the programme will be recorded by the system. This will enable Probation Officers and family members to gain insights into the probationers’ thought processes, so that they can reinforce learning and better support their progress while on probation.

Building on Strong Partnerships to Support Probationers

6.          PCRS is supported by a wide network of partners in the rehabilitation of probationers. These partners include families, schools, law enforcement, social service, health and other community agencies, whom PCRS works with to create opportunities for probationers to acquire skills, make amends and sustain positive changes. The COVID-19 pandemic brought out the strength of these partnerships, as partners rose to the challenge by organising themselves and their programmes differently to complement the work of Probation Officers.

    a.          For example, Volunteer Probation Officers stepped up virtual time restriction checks through phone and video calls and mentored probationers with limited family support through virtual means.
    b.          Hostel partners worked closely with Probation Officers to ensure probationers ordered to reside in hostels continued to connect with their families through video calls and writing of letters during the Circuit Breaker period, as they could not return home on weekends.

Improvising Community Service Projects Amidst the Pandemic

7.          Over 90% of probation orders come with a community service condition. Community service aims to enhance the probationers’ rehabilitation by cultivating their sense of responsibility towards the community and providing an avenue for them to make amends for the harm caused by their offending. In 2020, PCRS collaborated with various community service agencies on projects which allowed probationers to support those affected by the pandemic. These partners and projects included:

    a.          The Food Bank, whom probationers worked with to pack and distribute food to lower-income beneficiaries who were unable to leave their homes due to mobility issues or had limited access to food sources; and
    b.          The National Kidney Foundation (NKF), whom probationers worked with to design appreciation and encouragement posters, and assemble care hampers for NKF’s nurses and frontline workers.

 

8.          “2020 posed many challenges to our work, but we rose above the challenges by adapting quickly and building on the strong partnerships we have fostered to effectively support our probationers’ rehabilitation. It is also heartening to know that our probationers were able to give back to the community during these trying times through community service,” said Ms Carmelia Nathen, Chief Probation Officer and Director of PCRS. “Such opportunities enable them to develop empathy towards others, discover the inherent value of humanity, and that they too can contribute to society. These are important as they take responsibility for their actions, focus on doing good and stay clear of offending.”

9.          Marcus (not his real name), aged 22, performed 120 hours of community service at The Food Bank. “While I initially saw community service just as a probation condition which I wanted to fulfil quickly, I realised that the meal deliveries meant the beneficiaries had one less worry during the COVID-19 pandemic. I was thankful for the small, yet positive impact I made, and felt that I gained more than I gave back”, shared Marcus.


About the Probation and Community Rehabilitation Service 2020 Annual Report

Released by MSF’s Probation and Community Rehabilitation Service, the 2020 Annual Report provides key statistics relating to Probation Orders, and features initiatives and collaborations with corporate and community partners to improve rehabilitation outcomes.

About the Probation and Community Rehabilitation Service

Released by MSF’s Probation and Community Rehabilitation Service, the 2020 Annual Report provides key statistics relating to Probation Orders, and features initiatives and collaborations with corporate and community partners to improve rehabilitation outcomes.

ANNEX A: FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

ANNEX B: GLOSSARY OF COMMONLY USED TERMS 

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ANNEX A: FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

1.         What goes into a Pre-Sentence Report?

The Courts can call for a Pre-Sentence Report (PSR) on an offender to determine the offender’s suitability to be placed on probation. The PSR preparation is a rigorous process involving in-depth interviews with the offender, family and significant others and obtaining reports from professionals such as schools, National Service authorities and social service agencies. These reports offer insights into an offender’s strengths and motivations, risk-taking behaviours, response to authority and ability to comply with rules, but these are not, by themselves, decisive factors on whether probation is suitable. Where relevant, psychological and psychiatric assessments are also obtained.

The overall assessment is guided by evidence-based tools and frameworks on offender management, adopted across probation and correctional jurisdictions in countries such as US, UK, Canada, Australia and Japan. Intervention plans are formulated accordingly, with the intensity of intervention determined by the risks and needs of the individual.

2.         What are some factors that determine suitability to be placed on probation?

Consistent with international literature, Probation Officers assess a range of factors such as offending patterns of behaviour, circumstances leading to the current offence/s, attitudes and beliefs, peer association and leisure activities, engagement in work/school, substance abuse, family circumstances/supervision and other support systems in the community. Psychiatric/psychological assessments may also be considered in determining if an offender is suitable to undergo probation.

3.         Why are probationers required to perform community service as part of their Probation Order?

Community service was introduced in December 1996 and can be imposed by the Courts as a condition of probation. Community service provides an opportunity for probationers to make amends through serving the community. Where possible, probationers are involved in community projects with a nexus to their offences. Probationers involved in unlicensed moneylending, vandalism and/or property-related offences have previously participated in mural painting projects to benefit the community. This not only meets the needs of the beneficiaries, but also allows the probationers to harness their interests/strengths and learn skills in the process. MSF is constantly looking for new opportunities for meaningful partnerships with the community.

4.         What accounted for the improvement in overall completion rates for Probation Orders while the completion rates for Youth Court Probation Orders continued to fall in in 2019 and 2020?

The overall completion rate for probationers increased from 80% in 2019 to 82% in 2020. The completion rates are influenced by the probationers’ profiles such as age, risk levels, responsiveness to interventions and the complexities of the cases. Year-on-year changes to the completion rates can also be expected due to fluctuations to cohort size.

5.         Why has there been a decrease in the number of Probation Orders in 2020 as compared to 2019?

The number of referrals for Pre-Sentence Reports (PSRs) from the Youth Court was 137 in 2019 compared to 95 in 2020. Similarly, the number of referrals for PSRs from the State Courts decreased from 534 in 2019 to 509 in 2020. While the overall number of referrals in 2020 was 10% lower compared to 2019, the number of referrals in 2020 was still higher than in 2018. The number of referrals in 2020 may have been affected by the adjournment of less urgent cases during Singapore’s COVID-19 Circuit Breaker, which was in effect from 7 Apr to 1 Jun 2020. The adjournments resulted in only a small number of PSR referrals in Apr and May 2020. However, the referrals picked up after the lifting of Circuit Breaker measures.

The number of probation orders granted each year would depend on several factors including the risk profile of cases and their suitability to undergo the probation regime. The decrease in PSR referrals from the Youth Court and State Courts and impact of COVID-19 safety measures on the number of cases dealt with in 2020 were also contributing factors for the lower number of probation orders passed that year.

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