87% of the Probation Orders that ended in 2021 were successfully completed, the highest completion rate since 2012. This was a key achievement highlighted in the Probation and Community Rehabilitation Service (PCRS) Annual Report 2021, which recognises the collective efforts of families, Probation Officers, Volunteer Probation Officers, and community partners in supporting probationers in their rehabilitation journey.
Strengthening family involvement and supervision to support change
2. Families are a key partner in the rehabilitation process. Local research has shown that probationers with high family supervision are about 3.5 times more likely to complete their probation orders than those without.1Recognising their positive impact on outcomes, Probation Officers work closely with parents and caregivers to strengthen family communication and relationships, and to increase the effectiveness of parental supervision. The increase in home based learning and work-from-home arrangements during the COVID-19 pandemic allowed parents to supervise probationers more closely, and to be more actively involved in their rehabilitation process. While the pandemic limited probationers’ social and recreational activities, families stepped up their involvement and support to ensure probationers were constructively occupied. They also helped to reinforce the safe management measures and probation conditions. After completion of the probation orders, the continued support of families and the community remains important, to help probationers sustain the positive changes.
3. The case of ‘Samantha’2 demonstrates the powerful impact of strong family bonds in the rehabilitation journey. Growing up, her mother was an uninvolved parent who gambled and spent long periods away from home. Her father passed away when she was 14. Without close parental support, Samantha started staying away from home and fell into bad company. At 16, she became pregnant and her then-boyfriend left her. She was eventually arrested for cheating offences and placed on probation when she was 19. Throughout her probation, Samantha’s paternal aunt was supportive of her desire to change and invested effort to build a good relationship with her. Today, Samantha credits her aunt and the network of community support for her transformation in attitude and character. She said that her time on probation gave her the chance and motivation to improve her life. She is now pursuing a polytechnic diploma and aspires to excel in her studies and live a purposeful life.
Meaningful connections with community to facilitate crime-free lifestyle
4. Probation Officers and Volunteer Probation Officers work with probationers to build meaningful connections with the wider community. One such avenue is through community service, which aims to cultivate probationers’ sense of responsibility towards the community and connect them to positive role models.
5. 2021 marked significant milestones for two key community partnerships - 50 years of the Volunteer Probation Officer Scheme and 25 years of the Community Service Scheme. Both schemes have been key in supporting the work of MSF’s PCRS and mobilising the community to strengthen the rehabilitation of probationers. Dr Martin Wong, a Volunteer Probation Officer andPresident of Xin Yuan Community Care collaborated with a group of probationers and the YouthAdvisory Group (YAG)3 to organise virtual activities for children from low-income families to celebrate Children’s Day. Through the project, probationers had the opportunity to contribute to the community and learn from other positive role models. Dr Wong said, “We do not exclude or ostracise young offenders. Many of us have also been through a period where we were rebellious and non-conforming. Strong community support is needed to allow them to see and feel positivity around them and exercise their own will to change.”
6. Ms Carmelia Nathen, Chief Probation Officer and Director of PCRS, emphasised that “We continue to work closely with families, Volunteer Probation Officers, stakeholders and the wider community to support our probationers in their efforts to turn their lives around. Ultimately, we want the probation experience to motivate our youths to continue with positive changes beyond the probation order, and to pay it forward.”
1Li, D., Chu, C. M., Xu, X., Zeng, G., & Ruby, K. (2019). Risk and protective factors for probation success among youth offenders in Singapore. Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice 17(2), 194-213.
2PCRS Annual Report 2021, page 14.
3The Youth Advisory Group (YAG) was set up in 2017 under the ambit of the National Committee on Prevention, Rehabilitation and Recidivism. It comprises youths including ex-probationers who are motivated to share their insights and experiences to benefit programmes and approaches for youths.
Annex A Frequently Asked Questions
1. What goes into a Pre-Sentence Report?
The Courts may call for a Pre-Sentence Report (PSR) on an offender to determine the offender’s suitability to be placed on probation. As rehabilitation is the ultimate aim of a probation order,Probation Officers assess an offender’s capacity and willingness to follow probation requirements and be guided to make positive changes. PSR preparation is a rigorous process involving gathering in-depth information from the offender, family, and professionals. This includes assessing the offender’s family support and supervision, role in current and past offences, peer and recreational activities, response to authority and ability to comply with rules. Where relevant, psychological, and psychiatric assessments are also obtained.
2. Why are probationers required to perform community service as part of their ProbationOrder?
Community service provides an opportunity for probationers to make amends for their offences through serving the community. Where possible, probationers are involved in community projects with a nexus to their offences. Activities include befriending the elderly, packing, and distributing food and care packages, mural painting and supporting events that raise awareness of social issues such as mental health, caring for animals and the environment. Through such experiences, probationers learn important lessons such as empathy for others, including victims, taking responsibility for one’s actions and their potential to positively impact others. These are rehabilitative goals that will help steer them away from crime, be motivated to improve their life circumstances and contribute to the community.
3. What do Volunteer Probation Officers do?
The Volunteer Probation Officer (VPO) scheme was started in 1971 to promote volunteer participation and community awareness in the rehabilitation of offenders. The VPOs complement PCRS’ work by serving as befrienders and mentors to probationers.
Some examples of what a VPO does include
- Befriending and mentoring
- Conducting time restriction checks. Linking probationers up with resources in the community (e.g., community programmes, skills and strengths-based activities, employment opportunities)
- Planning and overseeing Community Service projects.