Rehabilitation for Young Offenders in Hong Kong Correctional Institutions

By Tam, Kai Yung; Heng, Mary Anne | Journal of Correctional Education, March 2008 | Go to article overview

Rehabilitation for Young Offenders in Hong Kong Correctional Institutions


Tam, Kai Yung, Heng, Mary Anne, Journal of Correctional Education


Abstract

The motto of the Hong Kong Correctional Services Department (CSD) is to "Support Rehabilitative Offenders for a More Inclusive Society". The Hong Kong CSD has developed a correctional system which has placed increasing emphasis on correction and rehabilitation of offenders over the years. This paper describes the efforts of the Hong Kong CSD in the rehabilitation of young offenders through its Rehabilitation Division that comprises five units: (1) Rehabilitation Units (Assessment and Program), (2) Education Unit, (3) Vocational Training Unit, (4) Psychological Services Section, and (5) Rehabilitation Unit (Supervision). Successful stories in the rehabilitation of young offenders as a result of efforts of the CSD are presented. Finally, several areas of focus of the Hong Kong CSD are highlighted, which may serve as focus areas for other correctional institutions worldwide.

Introduction

A major challenge for correctional programs is that educational services may not be a priority (Foley & Gao, 2002). A deterrent, "get tough" approach for juvenile offenders is based on the premise that many juvenile offenders cannot be rehabilitated and that rehabilitation is ineffective (e.g., Krisberg & Austin, 1993). The lack of clear transition planning also presents significant obstacles for correctional educators who try to help incarcerated youth with successful reentry into the community.

Much of the research describing correctional education programs has focused on program components developed in the United States. In Asia, the rehabilitative mission of correctional education has a more recent history (see for example, Oh, Goh, Tarn, & Heng, 2005; Tarn, Heng, & Rose, 2007). Hong Kong has become the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China since July 1, 1997. Six times the size of Washington, DC, Hong Kong has a population of almost 7 million and is one of the most important financial hubs in the world. Hong Kong has a free market economy highly dependent on international trade and her service industry has grown rapidly over the past decade. Hong Kong's per capita Gross Domestic Product exceeds that of the four big economies of Western Europe. As with the United States and other developed countries, juvenile delinquency is one of the most serious social issues in Hong Kong. In 2006, the number of juveniles (aged 10 to 15) and young persons (aged 16 to 20) arrested for crimes saw a drop of 0.5 percent and a rise of 4.1 percent, respectively, and the situation has remained more or less the same as in 2005. The crimes committed by juveniles were mostly that of shop theft and of causing hurt and serious assault. The rise in the number of juvenile offences was largely due to the abuse of psychotropic drugs (Hong Kong Police Force, 2007).

There are a number of significant milestones in the rehabilitative mission of the Hong Kong Correctional Services Department (CSD) in the course of her history since the 1980s. In 1982, the Hong Kong Prisons Department was renamed the Hong Kong CSD and the thrust was in the expansion of existing programs that would focus on the rehabilitation of offenders. In the subsequent year, the first half-way house for young offenders, the Phoenix House, was established. In 1986, the Hong Kong Examination Authority accorded recognition to inmates from one of the correctional institutions as school candidates who would sit for the Hong Kong Certificate of Education Examination1 in prison. In the same year, the CSD was licensed as the operating authority for the Duke of Edinburgh's Award Scheme2 and inaugurated the first boy-scout group that would organize activities for young offenders. In 1987, the first girl-guide group for female inmates was formed. In July 1997, the administration of Hong Kong was reverted to China, and a new departmental mission of supporting rehabilitated offenders for a more inclusive society was adopted on July 1,1997. This led to the establishment of a new Rehabilitation Division headed by an Assistant Commissioner that would focus on rehabilitation services for prisoners and inmates. …

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