Conversations on crime, rehab have taken place in S’pore ‘for decades’, says Shanmugam in rejoinder to Jamus Lim
Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam on Feb 4, 2021 rejected a suggestion by Member of Parliament Jamus Lim that the criminal records of ex-offenders convicted of non-violent crimes could be removed 'for employment purposes'.
- The exchange between the two politicians began in response to a parliamentary question by Assoc Prof Lim
- The opposition MP had asked whether the Government would consider expunging the records of ex-offenders who committed non-violent crimes
- Assoc Prof Lim later said his question was meant to start a conversation on crime and rehabilitation
- Mr Shanmugam replied that these conversations have taken place here for decades
- He called on Assoc Prof Lim to make a formal policy suggestion
Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam has questioned Associate Professor Jamus Lim’s “purpose” in wanting to open up a conversation on crime and rehabilitation, pointing out on Sunday (Feb 7) that these issues have been publicly discussed for more than 20 years.
What Singapore needs are “sensible, real world, practical suggestions, or incisive ideas”, which will contribute to the ongoing conversations on these issues, Mr Shanmugam said in a Facebook post.
Assoc Prof Lim, a Workers’ Party Member of Parliament (MP) for Sengkang Group Representation Constituency, had asked in Parliament on Tuesday whether ex-offenders of non-violent crimes who have displayed good behaviour for an extended period of time could have their criminal past expunged from public records.
Mr Shanmugam on Thursday rejected the suggestion, stating that there are many offences that are serious but “may not necessarily involve physical violence”.
He had also asked the opposition MP to clarify what he had meant when he mentioned “non-violent crime”.
Responding to Mr Shanmugam, Assoc Prof Lim said in a Facebook post on Friday that the purpose of his parliamentary question was not to propose a comprehensive policy, but rather to open up a conversation about crime and rehabilitation, to understand the “nuances of the current policy stance”, and to enquire if there is room to expand the scope of an existing programme.
He said his question had been inspired by his experience with some residents trying to obtain security jobs, such as being a guard at a condominium or shopping mall, but who were ruled out due to a glue-sniffing or petty theft offence, committed in their youth.
In his rejoinder on Sunday, Mr Shanmugam asked if Assoc Prof Lim was aware that discussions on crime and rehabilitation have taken place here for over a decade.
“It’s not a new topic, suddenly to be discovered,” he said.
Mr Shanmugam then pointed out that there had been several discussions on the topic in the last several years and steps had been taken to ensure that Singapore’s legislation focuses on the rehabilitation of ex-offenders.
For example, enhancements were made to the community-based sentencing in 2018 to expand the range of offenders and offences that were eligible under the regime.
Drug laws here were also amended in 2019 to remove the criminal stigma for drug offenders to focus on treating their habits and rehabilitating them, said Mr Shanmugam.
He added that the Yellow Ribbon project was also introduced as a result of the ongoing discussions on how to rehabilitate ex-offenders.
“Lots of Government effort and public resources have been put into these, and we have been articulating this approach, for greater public acceptance,” he said.
What is therefore needed are “sensible, real world, practical suggestions, or incisive ideas, which will make a contribution to the ongoing conversations on these issues”, said Mr Shanmugam, adding that the Government welcomes such ideas.
Calling on Assoc Prof Lim to make formal policy suggestions, he said: “If the MP believes that ex-offenders — be they child molesters, or have convictions for housebreaking and so on, as long as it is non-violent — should be allowed to be security officers in condominiums, without their conviction record being available to employers, he can make that suggestion.
“And perhaps suggest some condominiums where the approach can be tested out.”
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