Number of re-offending youth down but more can be done, says Lee
Although the proportion of juveniles in Singapore who return to crime has declined, it is still too high, said Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee.
To address the problem, an inter-ministerial committee will be set up to suggest how these youngsters can be given more help to mend their ways.
The committee will comprise officials from the Ministries of Education, Home Affairs, as well as Social and Family Development (MSF).
Explaining the move, Mr Lee said that every youth that slips back into crime is one life wasted.
“It’s not just numbers, these are lives you are talking about. So we shouldn’t rest on our laurels and say, ‘Well, our recidivism rate is pretty low, so let it be,’” he told reporters on Tuesday when he unveiled several major plans of his ministry.
Latest figures show that among those who had completed rehabilitation in 2011, 16.7 per cent re-offended within three years. This is a drop from 20.3 per cent among the 2007 cohort that was tracked for three years until 2010.
These juveniles were aged between seven and under-16. A similar pattern was seen among offenders below age 21.
The MSF found that 10.7 per cent who finished their rehabilitation in 2012 re-offended within three years, down from 13.8 per cent for those discharged from rehabilitation in 2010.
One reason for the slide is better community and school support available for these youth, said Mr Lee, who took charge of the ministry last September.
Other plans in the pipeline include making divorce proceedings less adversarial (see report on right) and introducing a law by June to better protect disabled and vulnerable adults from abuse, he told the media after he toured the PAP Community Foundation’s preschool in Marsiling.
New committee to make divorce proceedings less adversarial
The authorities are studying ways to make the family justice system less adversarial to reduce the trauma and scars of a long-drawn and bitter divorce on children.
One possibility is for counsellors and social workers to play a bigger role in working with the courts to help couples resolve their disputes.
Another possibility is for the Family Justice Courts (FJC) to change the way they make their decisions in divorce disputes.
Minister for Social and Family Development (MSF) Desmond Lee described these potential changes when he announced the setting up of an inter-ministerial committee. It will comprise officials from FJC, the MSF and the Law Ministry.
"Whether it is incremental or transformational, we need to study systems from around the world to look at what can work.
"But ultimately, we hope to see the number of contested cases come down," he added.
The new committee, called the committee to review and enhance reforms in the family justice system will, among other things, find an approach that "will look at therapeutic and restorative justice as opportunities for feuding couples" to settle their differences outside court, Mr Lee said.
The move to ease the pain of divorce proceedings comes as the bulk of civil divorces are contested. In 2016, about two in three were contested at the point of filing, often over child custody and property.
For this reason, alternative dispute resolution methods may be introduced and couples could be required to use them.
Counsellors, social workers and other professionals could step in first to resolve the differences. Another way is to incorporate restorative justice to help couples understand the harm they have caused and pave the way for the relationship to heal.