Singapore teen avoids jail time under programme for minors, mends relationship with mum

SINGAPORE - For much of his life, Sufi (not his real name) argued frequently with his mother. At one point, he stopped talking to her for more than a year.

It was his arrest for criminal intimidation in May last year, when he was 18, that sparked the mending of their strained relationship - Sufi was referred to a triage interview at Bedok police division.

The triage system benefits young people aged 19 and below who are arrested for minor offences such as shoplifting and fighting.

It allows social workers to help assess their needs, and refer them quickly to social services such as counselling if needed, instead of prosecution.

Rolled out at all police divisions last year, it is expected to run until 2020.

Sufi attended the session with his mother in July last year.

This was when the pair found that they could hold a serious conversation without getting angry at each other. Sufi said he hoped for more of such conversations with his mother, who had raised him as a single parent, said a Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) spokesman.

 

After the interview, instead of getting a jail term or fine, Sufi was placed in a guidance programme. This involved a case worker teaching social skills such as emotion management and problem-solving to the young person and his family, strengthening relationships.

Besides working on communication skills during Sufi's six-month programme, Sufi's mother learnt to be more encouraging and supportive of him.

According to figures The Straits Times obtained from MSF, there were 1,089 triage interviews last year. This was about 40 per cent of the 2,788 young people arrested.

In the first half of this year, there were 686 triage interviews, forming about half of the 1,279 youth arrests.