Befriender support for some offenders

A dedicated befriender programme called Friends Engaging and Supporting (Frens) aims to link offenders who have been sentenced to jail terms of less than 12 months with volunteer befrienders.

Currently, offenders sentenced to fines or short imprisonment terms cannot access existing in-care and after-care befriender schemes.

But under the new scheme aimed at helping offenders rehabilitate and break the cycle of reoffending, a befriender will be assigned to an offender in suitable cases at the pre-sentence or post-sentence stage.

The aim is to give the offender the emotional support and practical assistance to seek employment, persevere in rehabilitation and facilitate re-entry into society.

The befriender will work with the offender to identify the root causes of his behaviour and refer him to the relevant agencies for help.

Engagements between a befriender and offender will end, at the earliest, six months after the offender's release from prison or after he has been sentenced to a fine.

The maximum period of engagement can be up to one year.

The Community Court has noted that some offenders have significant problems reforming because they lack family and com-munity support.

That could be due to an offender's unemployment, association with negative peers and estrangement from his family.

Frens aims to be "a critical in-tervention to assist offenders in identifying root causes of offending and forming an alternative pro-social network", said Justice See Kee Oon, Presiding Judge of the State Courts.

The initiative will be implemented by the State Courts in collaboration with the Singapore Prisons Service, the Community Justice Centre and its stakeholders in the second quarter of this year.

Grace Leong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 10, 2018, with the headline 'Befriender support for some offenders'. Print Edition | Subscribe