More people receiving longer probation sentences, but completion rate remains high

Data out on June 11 showed that 84 per cent completed their probation, a tad higher than the 83 per cent in 2017.

SINGAPORE - The rate of offenders who completed their probation orders remained high last year despite increasing numbers of longer sentences being handed out.

Initiatives started by the authorities that involve working closely with public agencies, community partners and families are being credited with helping achieve the high completion rate.

Data out on Tuesday (June 11) showed that 84 per cent completed their probation - a tad higher than the 83 per cent in 2017.

This comes even though longer probations are being imposed. Last year, 55 per cent of orders were for more than 18 months, an increase on the 51.9 per cent in 2017, according to the annual report from the Ministry of Social and Family Development's Probation and Community Rehabilitation Service (PCRS).

The PCRS considers an offender's risk and needs, the number of offences, their severity and the person's role in the crime when recommending the duration of probation.

Theft and related offences remain the most common crime for those put on probation in 2018, with 26.1 per cent of probationers charged for such a crime, down slightly from the 27 per cent in 2017.

Voluntarily causing hurt was the second most common type of offence in 2018, followed by drug and related offences.

The report noted that 9.1 per cent of those placed on probation last year had narcotics-related offences compared with 8 per cent in 2017.

There were 425 new probation orders issued in 2018, down from 451 in 2017.

This number has been on the decline over the past 10 years due to the decreasing youth population. There were 1,296 probation orders issued in 2009.

The Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) employs a range of initiatives when dealing with probationers.

It partnered the Ministry of Manpower last year to give probationers who had committed vandalism or robbery against foreign workers a chance to make amends by having them paint a mural to brighten up a migrant workers' dormitory and celebrate International Migrants' Day with the residents.

The MSF also implemented a new case management approach that uses a family-focused way for rehabilitation to address the increasingly complex needs of families.

"We believe that the key to successful rehabilitation begins with the family. The support from the family is crucial for the probationer to successfully complete his or her probation," said Ms Aileen Tan, chief probation officer and director of the PCRS.

"Family-based interventions are preferred as they provide the probationer with added psychological and emotional support, without disrupting his or her daily routine."

"We have been rolling out more intensive family services to support home-based rehabilitation, in close collaboration with community partners, so that we can strengthen support for probationers and their families."