Corrective Training and Its Consequences in Singapore
From fines to imprisonment, there are several types of sentences that you may face when convicted of a crime.
One such sentence is corrective training, which is considered a more serious form of imprisonment that focuses on both the prevention of crime and the rehabilitation of an offender.
In this article, we will discuss:
- What is corrective training?
- When might you be sentenced to corrective training?
- Singapore cases that resulted in corrective training sentences
- What happens when you are sentenced to corrective training?
- Will you have a criminal record if you are sentenced to corrective training?
What is Corrective Training?
The Singapore State Courts define corrective training as a separate regime from imprisonment, with a minimum imprisonment term of 5 years and a maximum of 14 years. It may be ordered when the court feels that it is important you receive training to correct your character. The court may also order sentences, like fines and caning, separately.
However, a District Court or the High Court may impose corrective training on you only if you are:
- Above 18 years old;
- A repeat offender who has previously been imprisoned; and
- Certified fit to undergo corrective training,
Differences between corrective training and regular imprisonment
Both corrective training and imprisonment seem to overlap, as they aim to prevent crime through the physical incapacitation of offenders. Yet, they ultimately differ in their driving principles and purpose.
To break it down, the various sentences that are used in Singapore’s justice system can be categorised into four main groups:
- Prevention; and
Sentences surrounding deterrence look to instil a sense of fear of consequences in offenders (or potential future offenders) as a means to discourage the offence from being repeated. On the other hand, retributive sentences are typically meant to avenge an offender’s victim(s). Such deterrent or retributive sentences are generally more intense and strict, and include fines, caning and even the death penalty.
As for preventive sentences, they include both imprisonment and preventive detention, and call for the physical incapacitation of offenders as a way of preventing further harm and damage.
Lastly, rehabilitation focuses on the reformation of offenders and is applicable to less serious crimes such as littering. Rehabilitative sentences include probation and community-based orders like community service.
Hence, while the line between corrective training and imprisonment may appear blurred, imprisonment is centred around retribution and deterrence. In contrast, the goal of corrective training is not just a heightened emphasis on crime prevention, but also the thorough rehabilitation of your behaviour.
Another difference between the two forms of punishment is the possibility of remission.
Remission permits offenders to be released from imprisonment earlier than their scheduled date on grounds like good conduct and behaviour. This is a route available to those sentenced to imprisonment in general.
On the other hand, once you have been sentenced to corrective training, you will not be granted remission and good behaviour would not warrant an early release. However, you may still be released on licence earlier (discussed further below).
When Might You be Sentenced to Corrective Training?
To be sentenced to corrective training, you must fulfil either one of the scenarios set out under section 304 of the Criminal Procedure Code.
In both cases, you would have to be age 18 or above. Following which, you must have been convicted:
- Before the General Division of the High Court or a District Court of an offence punishable with at least 2 years’ imprisonment. You should also have been convicted in Singapore or elsewhere at least twice since reaching 16 years old for offences punishable with the same sentence; or
- At one trial, before the General Division of the High Court or a District Court, of 3 or more distinct offences punishable with at least 2 years’ imprisonment. You should have also been convicted and sentenced in Singapore or elsewhere to imprisonment for at least one month since reaching 16 years old for an offence punishable with the same sentence.
Before your sentencing, the court is also obliged to call for and consider any report submitted by the Commissioner of Prisons, or any persons authorised by the Commissioner to submit the report on their behalf.
The report should provide more in-depth understanding on your mental and physical condition, along with your suitability to be sentenced to corrective training. This in turn helps the court in determining if corrective training is an appropriate recourse.
If you meet the criteria for corrective training and the court is satisfied with the suitability report, you may then be sentenced to corrective training.
Singapore Cases that Resulted in Corrective Training Sentences
In 2017, Muhammad Noh Mohammad Jais, who had been previously convicted of robbery and theft on two separate occasions, resumed his old ways within 5 months of his early release from imprisonment.
He was eventually sentenced to 5 years of corrective training, as well as 6 strokes of the cane for his attempted snatch theft and use of threatening behaviour on two pregnant women.
In another case, 24-year-old Sivakandesh was sentenced to 5 years of corrective training. He was also sentenced to 8 strokes of the cane and a $4,000 fine.
This was the result of his repeated violence-related offences, where despite his numerous prior sentences, Sivakandesh continued to commit various crimes from theft to attempting to cause hurt to a public servant.
Finally, with an accumulated 15 years of imprisonment and 16 strokes of the cane in the short period between 1997 and 2002, Affendi Yusoff had a long history of property-related offences.
In 2019, Affendi entered and ransacked a childcare centre that was situated in the building he worked as a cleaner in. He had climbed through an open window and proceeded to eat a carrot from the pantry’s refrigerator. He also took the keys to the centre’s toilet and backdoor with him.
At the time of his hearing in 2020, he was assessed to have a 70% chance of reoffending within the first two years of his next release from prison, further reinforcing the court’s decision to sentence him to corrective training.
Though the nature of their cases varied, there was a clear, common ground which was what the court cited in each of the respective hearings. All three cases of re-offences resulted in sentences to corrective training as it was evident that their previous punishments of imprisonment and caning failed to deter them from reoffending.
Ultimately, the high risk of reoffending of the offenders mentioned above led the court to sentence them to corrective training.
What Happens When You are Sentenced to Corrective Training?
The purposes of corrective training are to cultivate in offenders a will to lead a good and useful life, all while preparing and enabling them to do so through several platforms. These include:
- The provision of work, which strives to prepare offenders to earn a living upon their release from imprisonment, with specialised technical training in trades;
- Special attention to their education;
- The use of personal influence by prison staff on the character and training of offenders; and
- The provision of opportunities to develop a sense of personal responsibility.
Punishments during corrective training
If you commit any prison offices while undergoing corrective training, you will be liable to additional punishments that the Superintendent decides fit.
These prison offences are divided into minor and aggravated offences, and bring about completely different sets of punishments.
Minor prison offences could range from simply talking during work hours and causing disruption, to quarrelling with other prisoners. You can also be punished for showing disrespect to any person in the vicinity.
Punishments for minor prison offences include up to 7 days’ confinement in a punishment cell and a written warning.
Aggravated prison offences, on the other hand, could include more pressing acts like an attempt to escape or wilful destruction of property.
Punishments for aggravated prison offences include caning of up to 12 strokes with a rattan. Like all other instances of judicial caning, the punishment can be carried out only on males up to 50 years old and who have been declared fit for caning.
What does it mean to be released on licence?
Earlier, it was mentioned that corrective training is a stricter variation of imprisonment which does not allow for the typical one-third remission for good behaviour.
Nevertheless, after at least two-thirds of your corrective training sentence have been served, the Minister for Home Affairs may release you on licence, allowing you to leave prison before the expiration of your sentence.
After your early release on licence, you are obligated to comply with the conditions that are implemented with your grant of licence. Such a condition would be the most basic expectation of not committing any offences during your release.
If the President deems it needed, you may also be placed under the supervision of an assigned person who will ensure that you are not flouting the conditions.
Failure to adhere to the conditions set out in your licence before your sentence expiration will also result in your return to prison, where you will be detained for the remainder of your original sentence.
Will You Have a Criminal Record If You are Sentenced to Corrective Training?
A criminal record may follow you for the rest of your life and put you in unfavourable positions, be it the subjection to public scrutiny and prejudice, or to limited employment opportunities.
However, a sentence to corrective training does not necessarily translate to a criminal record as whether you receive one is dependent on the type of offence you have committed.
To summarise, you obtain a criminal record when you have been:
- Convicted of a registrable crime in Singapore; or
- Convicted of offences committed within and registrable under the law of Malaysia; or
- Ordered to be banished, expelled or deported from Singapore or Malaysia; or
- Convicted, or ordered to be banished, expelled, or deported from any place outside of Singapore and Malaysia, and such particulars are provided by the relevant officers or authorities of such place.
The Registration of Criminals Act (RCA) provides for a long list of registrable crimes in Singapore, which consists of crimes like sexual assault and fraud.
That said, even if you have committed a registrable offence, the Commissioner of Police may still pardon you from registration. This privilege, however, applies only to offenders of more minor crimes that fulfil all the following criteria:
- Conviction of an offence under the Second Schedule of the RCA e.g. rioting or the obstruction of justice;
- Sentenced of a fine of up to $1,000, instead of an imprisonment term (except in the case where you have been imprisoned for failing to pay a fine); and
- No previous criminal record.
In addition, even if your criminal record has been registered, it may still be able to be spent. A spent criminal record essentially means that you no longer have a criminal record but would still be required to declare your prior convictions if asked.
However, if your record cannot be spent, it will not be removed until your passing or until you reach 100 years old.
If you would like to find out more, we delve further into the topic of criminal records in Singapore here.
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