Reformative Training in Singapore: When Will It be Ordered?

Last updated on February 11, 2019

Featured image for the "Reformative Training in Singapore: When Will It Be Ordered?" article. It features a detention centre.

What is Reformative Training?

Reformative training (RT) is a rehabilitative sentencing option. The courts are empowered by section 305 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC) to impose RT in lieu of any other sentence.

Who is Eligible for Reformative Training?

An offender above the age of 14 but below the age of 21 is eligible for RT.

For repeat offenders who were previously sent to a juvenile rehabilitation centre for their previous offence, the age range to be granted RT is 14 to 16 years old.

First-time offenders between the age of 14 and 16 are not eligible for RT. Other forms of rehabilitative sentences (which are less harsh compared to RT) are usually more suitable for them due to their young age.

What Happens During Reformative Training?

During RT, the youth offender undergoes a comprehensive rehabilitation programme in a closed and structured environment in a Reformative Training Centre (RTC).

However, as compared to other rehabilitative sentences such as community-based sentencing options (e.g. Mandatory Treatment Order or probation), which are rendered spent after they are completed, RT results in a criminal record.

RT does not allow an offender to remain in society either. This is unlike community-based sentencing which allows offenders to remain in society while serving their sentence (by performing unpaid community service under the supervision of an authorised officer).

RT occurs in 2 phases:

  1. The Residential Phase; and
  2. The Supervision Phase.

1. Residential Phase

Offenders are detained in an RTC during the Residential Phase. During this period of detention, offenders undergo:

  • Counselling;
  • Academic training and
  • Vocational training

Other activities include:

  • Religious counselling;
  • The Family Involvement Programme; and
  • The Community Re-integration Programme (Should the offender decide to pursue academic training)

A Personal Supervisor monitors the offender’s welfare and behaviour while providing him/her with help and guidance.

Offenders who intend to pursue their academic endeavours are transferred to Tanah Merah Prison (Prison School) where they may sit for the relevant examinations.

The offender may be detained for at least 6 months and up to 54 months, depending on what the court deems as most appropriate for his/her rehabilitation.

After being released from the RTC, the offender will enter the Supervision Phase.

2. Supervision Phase

During the Supervision Phase, offenders are expected to work, study or perform community work under the guidance and supervision of Prisons Reintegration Officers until their release.

The supervision period will start from offender’s date of release from the RTC. During the supervision period, the offender may be required to comply with certain orders such as:

  • Providing hair or urine samples for testing
  • Staying indoors at home (or other place of residence) as required
  • Wearing an electronic transmitting device to allow the offender’s whereabouts to be electronically monitored
  • Allowing RTC officers to enter the offender’s home (or other place of residence) to check on the offender

The earliest the supervision period can end is:

  • The day that the offender’s supervision period ends;
  • The day that the offender is discharged from the supervision order; or
  • The day that is the end of 4 years from the RTC date.

What if the offender fails to comply with the requirements in the supervision order?

Offenders who fail to comply with the requirements in the supervision order may be recalled to their RTC (or any other RTC) for re-detention. Recall orders can be issued by the Commissioner of Prisons or by the RTC Review Committee.

For a single failure to comply with the requirements, offenders can be re-detained for up to 10 days. For 2 or more failures however, offenders can be re-detained for up to 10 days for each failure, capped at 30 days total.

The end of the entire re-detention period cannot be on a date that is later than:

  • 3 years after the date on which the offender’s sentence of RT took effect; or
  • 6 months after the date of the offender’s re-detention; whichever ends later.

The re-detention period also cannot extend beyond 54 months after the date of the person’s sentence of RT.

When a recall order is issued, the offender’s supervision period will:

  • Be suspended until the end of the re-detention period (for recall orders issued by the Commissioner of Prisons); or
  • End when the offender reports to the RTC for re-detention (for recall orders issued by the RTC Review Committee).

Offenders who do not report to the specified RTC for re-detention on the date stated in the recall order will be treated as unlawfully at large.

What Must the Court Consider Before Imposing Reformative Training?

Whether rehabilitation is the dominant consideration for the sentence

RT predominantly serves as a rehabilitative sentencing option for youth offenders. However, the court has held that while RT aims to be rehabilitative, it is in fact punishing in nature. Therefore, the general approach to RT is that it should be imposed “cautiously”.

If the offence is so cruel and the courts think that the young offender cannot be reformed at all, then deterrence (deterring the offender from committing further crimes by isolating him from society) is the main sentencing consideration.

The punishment stated by the law (usually imprisonment) may then be the appropriate sentence. If so, rehabilitative sentences will not be taken into consideration, i.e. RT would unlikely be granted.

Instead, RT may only be granted where the dominant consideration in sentencing is rehabilitation.

The circumstances of the case

Following which, in deciding between granting probation (which is another rehabilitative sentencing option) and RT for young offenders, the following considerations are relevant:

  1. Seriousness of the offence
  2. Culpability of the offender
  3. Existence of past offences
  4. Nature of the rehabilitation best suited for the offender
  5. Availability of familial support in the rehabilitative efforts
  6. Any other special reasons or need for rehabilitation
  7. Character of offender
  8. Circumstances of offence

In particular, the seriousness of the offence and culpability of the offender would affect the appropriateness of the courts granting probation.

The Commissioner of Prisons’ recommendations on whether reformative training should be imposed

In addition, the court must call for and consider any report submitted by the Commissioner of Prisons (or any person authorised to submit it on his behalf) before imposing any sentence of reformative training.

The report should contain details of the:

  • Offender’s physical and mental condition
  • Offender’s suitability for RT; and
  • Nature of rehabilitation recommended for the offender.

If the court has not received this report, it may keep the offender in custody for up to a month to enable the report to be submitted.

After considering these factors, the courts would then have to be satisfied that it is necessary for the offender’s reformation, and for prevention of crime, that the offender undergoes a period of training in a RTC.

This means that a balance between rehabilitation and deterrence (explained above) has to be struck, else the sentencing would not be appropriate.

Can a Sentence of Reformative Training Expire?

If the offender is already serving a sentence of RT, that sentence of RT imposed on the offender will expire if:

A sentence of RT will not expire if the offender is sentenced to imprisonment while still serving that sentence of RT. That sentence of RT will instead run at the same time as the sentence of imprisonment.

Should you need further advice specific to your case, seeking legal advice is recommended. A criminal lawyer would be able to advise you on your position and whether RT could apply for your case.

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