Today the Straits Times reports how the Chief Justice of Singapore Yong Pung How is displaying a highly improved understanding of the underlying issues. Of course the Straits Times title is utterly irrelevant and misses the real significance of the case reported below.
Nov 16, 2005The Straits Times, being what it is, has chosen to highlight the "you are just plain stupid" as the newsworthy element - see title of article. Of course the real significance in fact lies in the next paragraph:
CJ to kleptomaniac: 'You are just plain stupid'
She shoplifts while out on bail, but gets one more chance - and a scolding
By Elena Chong
SHE started shoplifting when she was nine and while she was out on bail last month, she could not help herself - and did it again.
Yesterday, [Convict's Name Removed By Mr Wang], who suffers from kleptomania - an impulse control disorder - came before the Chief Justice and got one more chance, and a scolding for good measure.
CJ Yong Pung How placed [XXX] on 24 months' supervised probation, and told her: 'Don't try and cure yourself. You are just plain stupid.'
This is extremely rare. The woman is a repeat offender, exactly the kind of person that the Chief Justice normally likes to lock away in prison for a loooong time. In the present case, however, the Chief Justice not only chose her to spare her from imprisonment, but furthermore to order her to attend psychiatric and psychological treament. Mr Wang cannot help but be reminded of what Mr Wang himself wrote in one of his previous posts about another criminal, Iskandar Nordin:
He ordered her to perform 240 hours of community service, attend psychiatric and psychological treatment sessions and take her medication daily under her mother's supervision.
Mr Wang believes that one day, we will become more enlightened about how criminals (or some kinds of criminals, at least) should be treated. Throwing people like Iskandar into jail and caning them does not necessarily serve any good purpose. Iskandar's kind of behaviour .... is highly indicative of the mental illnesses known as conduct disorder and ADHD (these two illnesses often coexist).It seems that the Chief Justice now agrees with Mr Wang's views on the matter, hence his approach to the present case. The next few paragraphs of the Straits Times report also shows the Chief Justice's thought processes moving in the right direction:
Incarceration cannot cure these mental conditions. Neither can caning. One day, Iskandar will walk out from prison again. If he still hasn't been properly treated of ADHD, then in all likelihood he will almost immediately do something stupid and criminal again. He can't help it. It's the conduct disorder, coupled with the impulsivity that comes with ADHD.
....... jail is the last place where people like Iskandar will get the professional help they need.
There are other interesting indications in the article of how CJ Yong's views seem to be changing. For example:
The first thing he asked the 24-year-old former computer programmer with [YYYYYYYYY] at her appeal hearing yesterday was if she had been taking her medication daily, and where.
She said she took her pills every morning at home.
'Don't forget,' CJ Yong told her.
CJ Yong said it was very easy for him to 'bump' her into jail, but he felt she has a problem which 'cannot be resolved by this form of punishment'.There is a little side article by ST explaining kleptomania:
'So long as she continues to take her daily dose of medication, there is a possibility that she may be cured completely. It is a mental affliction.
'If we just say - let's bundle her to prison... she has had so many chances, I think you would have destroyed the very last hope.'
CJ Yong said he was 'absolutely certain' that if XXXX were imprisoned, it would 'destroy her finally'.
He reminded her again to take her medication daily, warning her she would be 'finished' if she stopped doing so.
Why the impulse to steal
By THERESA TAN
KLEPTOMANIA is an uncontrollable impulse to steal and items stolen are often of little value or use, said psychiatrist Tan Chue Tin.
Once the impulse strikes, Dr Tan explained, a kleptomaniac's mind becomes obsessed with a particular item.
If he does not steal that item, his level of anxiety shoots up and becomes unbearable.
The only way to reduce the anxiety and pain he feels is to steal the item.
'They know stealing is wrong,' Dr Tan said. 'But the need to steal overpowers everything. They then feel guilty about stealing.'
UPDATE 28 August 2006: At the request of her friend, I have removed the name of the convicted person. I have also removed the reference to her ex-employer.