“With the information gathered from the young offender and his parents, the Triage Officers will provide advice and introduce the youth to relevant programmes or agencies” (New Triage System Offers “Targeted Intervention For At-Risk Youths”, Francis Law).
The new Triage System – with 12 Triage officers who “will provide advice and introduce [arrested youth] to relevant programmes or agencies” (TODAY, Nov. 5) to keep them out of court – is promising, though the research and outcomes of the intervention should be quantified. For instance, over the past decade, how many youths up to 19 years of age in Singapore have been arrested and investigated for minor offences? A six-month pilot of the initiative may have shown “positive results, with 95.7 per cent of 452 cases being diverted from the criminal justice system”, but what are the implications? How do these numbers compare with numbers in the past, and how was the triage designed in the first place?
Information on previous police investigations and types of sentencing would be useful too.
Effectiveness of this thorough assessment is premised upon strong partnerships between stakeholders. In this vein, besides determining whether the 12 officers across six locations would be adequate, the engagement of the non-profit organisations should be ascertained too. What is the network required for the targeted intervention, as well as the information-sharing practices which would be promoted? Against the background of a “many helping hands” approach, agencies may also be involved in different capacities.
In this vein, the second of the three initiatives – “a [longitudinal study] involving about 3,300 youth offenders and their primary caregivers over a period of 10 years” – will be of great value. Policy recommendations can be designed in response to the structural challenges faced by at-risk youths, while social workers in the sector can craft strategies for their beneficiaries. In turn, the performance of the non-profit organisations can be measured and managed in the long-term too, in terms of how effective their programmes may be for the youths.
A version of this article was published in TODAY.