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3 questions – Part 2

Should the goal of the penal system be to remove criminals from public, deterring crime by punishment, or rehabilitating wrongdoers? I think DingDongDaddy would be in a better position to answer this but here is my 2-cents worth of thoughts anyway…

Before I even answer this question, lets take a look on what the Singapore Penal System goal is and how it comes about. The Penal Code (Cap. 224) is based on the Indian Penal Code (1863) that is intended to consolidated the law relating to criminal offences in Singapore.

Initially, the philosophy of deterrence through punitive measures rather than rehabilitation was adopted by the prison service back in 1825. However, in 1936, a new philosophy of reform and rehabilitation was promulgated with the opening of Changi Prison.

For a small country like Singapore, things are very well managed here. But if you look at it on a global scale, a different picture awaits you. One of the issues that has dominated world countries for years is the ineffectiveness of penal systems for punishing crime.

While there are people who feel that bigger and “better” government can solve any problem, there are others around the world who overwhelmingly favors “getting tough” on criminals: lock them up and throw away the keys.

The result of these conflicting influences is an incredibly cumbersome system that no longer seems to work to protect our people from crime. I think that we ought to take a fresh look at the problem with the purpose of satisfying some basic principles.

– The purpose of the system is to bring about justice, not rehabilitation.

– The punishment should fit the crime.

– Public safety must be served.

– There must be equal justice for all offenders and all victims.

– Criminals should pay as much of the cost of the system as possible.

– Criminals should come as close as practical to undoing their crimes.

– Once the price has been paid, the “debt to society” must be erased. (Something which I don’t believe the local authorities are doing it)

Severe violent crimes – murder, rape, torture, armed robbery, kidnapping – should be punished using the death penalty. It fits the crime, and permanently removes the threat of that person committing further violent crimes.

I am also convinced that warehousing people in prisons does no one any good. Non-violent criminals and those who commit violence that is not severe enough to rate the death penalty should be subject to some kind of restitution for the losses of their victims and the country’s costs of apprehension.

But how do we deal with rich people who could pay any fine out of pocket, versus a poor person who might have to work a lifetime to repay his debt? I would be very interested in hearing creative approaches that anyone has for this.

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