COS Cuts for MHA
Initial Incarceration Phase Programming
Current rehabilitation programmes target the needs of ex-offenders in criminal thinking, employment and family support. While the public’s support is important during reintegration, the ex-offender himself must also be motivated to change. Inmates are the most disoriented, vulnerable and susceptible to influences at the initial incarceration phase.
This would be the opportune time to render positive and aspirational elements such as talks or programmes by successful ex-offenders who can be role models for inmates during this initial phase.
This would be a more powerful source of influence compared to the counsel of case workers who may seem clinical and unrelatable. This would counter negative influences from fellow inmates discussing past escapades.
Can the Ministry consider including more programmes featuring ex-offenders and imparting life-changing strategies at this initial stage, especially during the initial two to three months when inmates are most motivated to change and commitments are more sustainable?
Familial Ties in Inmate Rehabilitation
I recently had coffee with ex-offenders and the stories they shared with me were heartening and inspiring. They made mistakes but they are trying hard to rebuild their lives and we need to help them. If there is one word they used most frequently in their stories, it is “family”.
As I’ve shared in my cuts last year, I strongly believe we should strengthen family ties to improve the rehabilitation process for inmates. I’m grateful that SPS is working with Focus on the Family Singapore on running programmes to strengthen family bonds.
The Children’s Day event at Tanah Merah Prison last year, where 24 inmates were allowed an open visit where they could hug and hold their loved ones instead of being separated by a glass panel, was an excellent event.
They were also not in their prison uniform.
Can the Ministry extend this programme to more inmates and conduct such visits more often?
In the words of Focus on the Family Singapore “Humans thrive when we know we are loved. When inmates connect and are reconciled with their families, there is a lower chance of them reoffending.”
Mentoring Programmes for Inmates
Current in-care programmes for inmates feature psychological and cognitive-based curriculum and counselling, targeting the thinking and behavioural aspects of inmates. Programmes can come across as overly clinical, diagnostic, prescriptive, featuring lecture-style methods.
I hope the Ministry will consider featuring more inspirational, experiential and reflective learning approaches. For example, through mentoring, where community partners or representatives can come in regularly through group or one-on-one mentoring for a period of time.
This could complement the ‘through-care’ strategy of SPS, where the mentoring relationship could carry on into the Aftercare stage of the inmate, making societal reintegration more seamless.
This also provides a more ‘humanistic’ approach targeting the ‘heart’ of inmates, creating an authentic and positive relationship of trust.
SPS works with community partners like Focus on the Family, The Salvation Army and Singapore Children’s Society to conduct bonding programmes for inmates and their families. We have structured family programmes run by agencies such as Fei Yue Community Services and Lakeside Family Services to strengthen family relationships. More than 4,000 inmates benefitted from these last year. SPS aims to extend family programmes to more inmates.
Another factor that can reduce re-offending is social support. SPS has established a Befriending Programme for trained volunteers to befriend inmates and support them upon release. Since 2010, over 900 inmates have benefitted from this programme.
Mr Louis Ng asked if SPS would consider having more programmes featuring ex-offenders. We agree that sharing by ex-offenders can be very impactful. SPS collaborates with community partners to engage ex-offenders to give monthly motivational talks. In addition to face-to-face talks, the talks are also uploaded on shared tablets which are being piloted for inmates to engage in self-learning.
Violence Against Women
The criminal justice system should support survivors of domestic, sexual and other forms of gender-based violence who step forward for help.
However, some feel that their experiences are not well-understood and encounter insensitivities as they seek justice. This re-traumatises and discourages them from coming forward.
Can the Ministry provide mandatory and recurrent capacity-building for members at all levels of the criminal justice system, including lawyers, law enforcement officers and health-care staff, so they can better deal with survivors in a gender-sensitive way?
For the ongoing review on marital rape, is the Ministry looking at a complete removal of immunity or considering other positions? If so, what are they?
Our investigation processes will aim to take better care of the victims’ well-being. In particular, we are looking at the investigations and court processes for sexual crimes, to better protect victims of such offences.
Mr de Souza and Mr Louis Ng asked about this. I first announced in August 2016 that we were reviewing this. We have listened to the victims, to understand their concerns, worked with several organisations such as MSF, the hospitals, the Courts, and NGOs to improve our processes and the way our officers interact with the victims.
Some examples of the changes that have been made:
We selected and started training a group of Sexual Crime Duty Officers to conduct interviews with victims;
We have introduced the One-Stop Abuse Forensic Examination (OneSAFE) Centre so victims can be examined by the doctor on-site at the CID, without the need to shuttle between CID and the hospitals, and having to recount what had happened to them once at the hospital, once to the Police officers. Everything to be done in one place, at the OneSAFE Centre;
We developed a training video for our officers on how to question the victims in an empathetic way. AWARE helped us with that. They will then understand and have greater empathy of the trauma faced by victims;
In June this year, the Police, together with KK Hospital and other partners, will pilot a Multi-Disciplinary Interview (MDI) model. This will be focused on children who have been sexually abused by family members. It is necessary to gather the facts from these children, but again, one can imagine and understand the stress that these children may undergo if they have to be interviewed separately by Police, doctors, child protection officers, which can add to the stress. So we will seek to integrate these interviews so that the children need not repeatedly recount the traumatic experience.
In addition, Court processes will aim to better protect the victims of sexual assault cases, including:
-Automatic protection of identity;
– Closed-door hearings; and
– Questions about the victim’s sexual history and unrelated behaviour will face restrictions on what sort of cross-examination will be allowed, subject to the overall jurisdiction of the Courts. That will be set out when we deal with the legislation. We will define the precise scope of what we are intending to do and how the process can be taken forward.
Mr Louis Ng asked about marital rape. That is also under review.
Let’s be clear. Violence against women is wrong: No ifs, no buts on that. The removal of immunity for marital rape is being studied.