We often hear that in sentencing an offender, the Courts have a range of options – not only in the technical aspects such as the duration of imprisonment or quantum of fines but also in areas such as what type of sentence is to be meted out in the first place.
This is in turn rooted in the wider concept of “justice”, in that the Courts are guided by the consideration of ‘which sentence gives rise to the most just outcome?’.
Additionally, the Courts also give weight to factors such as the need for deterrence, the offenders’ risk of re-offending, and the overall harm they might cause to those around them.
Different types of Justice
When we think “justice”, we often only intuitively think of retributive justice. However, justice is more than that. Justice also comprises of restorative justice – sometimes also referred to as rehabilitative justice, which manifests in a different way from conventional punishments that arise from a place of “retribution”.
In recent years, we have seen an increase in community-based sentences, especially for youth offenders, and for offences that are less serious.
According to the Court’s website, there is a range of orders that can come under such community-based sentences, which are generally for minor offences. These include Mandatory Treatment Orders, Community Work Orders or Short Detention Orders, among others.
Upon the successful completion of a community-based sentence, the offence would be removed from one’s criminal record. Such orders do not leave a “stain” on an offender’s record and allow the offenders to remain in and interact with society as they carry out their sentences.
Reformative Training as a middle ground
So what happens if there is a young offender who seems to require more severe punishment, but the Courts’ primary motivation is to rehabilitate them?
The answer comes in the form of Reformative Training, which appears to strike a middle ground between the relatively “lighter” community-based sentences, and a prison sentence. Reformative Training is available as an alternative to prison sentences for offenders who are (i) above 16 years old, but below 21 years old; or (ii) between 14 to 16 years old and has been convicted of another offence before and sent to a juvenile rehabilitation centre.
According to the Criminal Procedure Code, the Court has to be satisfied that the offender’s character, past conduct and the current circumstances of the offence warrant such a sentence. The goal of Reformative Training is to reform the offender and prevent future crime.
The phases of Reformative Training
Reformative Training occurs in 2 main phases: residential and supervision.
In the first phase, offenders would be detained in a Reformative Training Centre (RTC) where they will go through counselling and training – both in academics and vocational skills.
There are also activities such as community re-integration programmes and family involvement programmes that are available for offenders to tap on.
After being released from RTC, the offenders are to work, study (if they choose to do so) or perform community work under the watchful guidance of Prisons Reintegration Officers. As part of this phase, the offender might be asked to submit hair or urine samples for testing or wear an electronic monitoring device so that their whereabouts may be tracked.
Additionally, officers from the Centre might conduct surprise visits to the offender’s place of residence.
While rehabilitation and the possibility of rehabilitation has always been considered by the Courts when sentencing an offender, it is given even more weight in cases of young offenders.
Concerns that punishments ought to be stiff for deterrence is addressed through reformative training as it still involves a strict regime that emphasises discipline and order which serves as punishment while still maintaining the element of rehabilitation as compared to a pure prison sentence.
Ultimately, the appropriate sentence for an offence is determined following consideration of all the facts and the surrounding circumstances. Therefore, Reformative Training is often used in cases of youth offenders, who the Courts deem to be in need of punishment, but more significantly, a case where the primary concern is to rehabilitate said offender.