20 November 2018
Ms Sylvia Lim
MP for Aljunied GRC
To ask the Minister for Social and Family Development regarding youths residing in places of detention and juvenile rehabilitation centres established under the Children and Young Persons Act (a) how does the Government ensure that the conditions of detention or residence promote rehabilitation; (b) what oversight mechanism and grievance procedure exist to safeguard the welfare of the detained youths; and (c) whether past reviews of violent incidents in the Singapore Boys Home have identified any contributory factors for the occurrences.
The youth justice system in Singapore is broadly premised on a gradation of interventions. As far as possible, youth offenders are diverted away from the youth justice system altogether through diversionary programmes such as the Enhanced Streetwise Programme for youths who play a minor role in gang-related offences. Where they are brought before the Youth Courts, they are first considered for probation and rehabilitation outside of residential facilities. This is to prevent their development from being unduly disrupted. This means that the youths who are required to reside in places of detention and juvenile rehabilitation centres generally have higher-risk behaviours, complex needs or a weak family environment that does not support rehabilitation.
At the Government-managed Singapore Boys’ Home, our youth workers support youth offenders to strengthen their socio-emotional development and relationship with their family, develop their resilience, and improve their education and employment outlook. The daily regimes and programmes build character and life-skills in the youths. Formal education is also a key component of the Home’s programme.
To provide a conducive rehabilitative regime, it is important to have good governance to ensure the well-being of the residents. There are stipulated standards of care, and a Review Board comprising professional volunteers appointed by the Minister which reviews the living conditions in the Home. Residents may raise concerns directly to members of the Review Board during their visits, or to the management of the Home. They may also deposit a letter into a secure letterbox that is accessed only by selected personnel.
At the same time, MSF takes the safety of residents and of our staff seriously. Bearing in mind the risk profile of the youths, some friction among fellow residents in a communal setting is not unexpected. MSF works closely with the Home Team departments to learn from past incidents in order to strengthen our policies and processes. For example, MSF and the Police have strengthened activation protocols to ensure swift intervention when needed. We have also made infrastructural enhancements, such as by installing duress alarms. This partnership is key to ensuring safety and security in the Home.