How psychology helps offenders mend their ways

SINGAPORE - Getting inside the criminal mind is a task that psychologists in the prison service and other agencies deal with on a day-to-day basis.

They can help to rehabilitate offenders by teaching them to "un-learn" violent thought processes and even use psychological techniques to train officers.

Tomorrow, their work will be showcased at a conference that brings together around 270 delegates from 13 countries.

The event, at Concorde Hotel in Orchard Road, will cover themes including correctional psychology - which aims to change criminals' mindsets - and techniques that can help officers deal with the trauma of major operations such as disaster recovery.

Called the Asian Conference of Criminal and Operations Psychology, it is organised by the Home Team Behavioural Sciences Centre and Home Team psychological services units across all agencies, including the police and Central Narcotics Bureau.

"Psychologists help with the changing of (inmates') attitudes and their beliefs around offending and living," said Mr Timothy Leo, who directs the prison services' psychological and correctional rehabilitation division.

"We help them with not just examining and trying to help re-shape their attitudes but also with problem-solving."

Mr Leo, who is vice-chairman of the conference, said psychological units across the Home Team have been working together over the past decade and streamlining their services. Their work - which involves both psychologists and counsellors - has steadily evolved from ad-hoc, localised efforts to a collaborative approach.

Tools for crisis intervention - offering psychological services to help officers cope with trauma - are now developed uniformly across agencies and "can be easily mobilised" on a national scale and in day- to-day operations.

The conference, which ends on Thursday, will offer Singapore a chance to present this model and share best practices employed internationally, said Mr Leo.

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