By Rouisanna @ MSF
Rouisanna is a Senior Probation Officer at MSF. She assesses the offenders’ suitability to undergo rehabilitation in the community and works with offenders placed on probation by the Court.
You might not guess that she is Probation Officer (PO) – let alone it being her first job – when you first meet her.
Her slight frame belies the determination she has to help the youth offenders under her care. Since Rouisanna first started work 4 years back, many have asked her, “Why did you choose to work with offenders?”
“Having been brought up in a rather sheltered environment, it was daunting at first to work with offenders. But I’ve always wanted to help support offenders – something about helping them called out to me,” said Rouisanna.
POs like Rouisanna work with offenders whom the Courts have deemed to be suitable for probation. They then work to best support and increase the likelihood of the probationers being reintegrated into society, while lowering the chance of them reoffending. Rouisanna, in particular, works with youth offenders residing at the Singapore Boys’ Hostel (SBHL).
Youth offenders (those below the age of 19) – who are ordered by the Courts to reside in hostels – are those assessed to be at higher risk of reoffending.
Rouisanna remembers a case where 15 year-old Luke (not his real name) was put on probation for having under-aged sex with his 12 year-old girlfriend. The case was particularly difficult as besides charges including sex with a minor and child protection concerns; the young girl was pregnant. In addition, there were a throng of issues to sort out, such as financial support and care for the baby.
Any other person might be fazed by such a high-needs and high-risk case – but not Rouisanna.
Putting herself in their shoes, Rouisanna understands the need to take things a step at a time – that includes helping the probationers overcome each complication in their lives as they come.
“Many of the probationers are from dysfunctional families themselves, and lacked proper support and guidance while growing up,” said Rouisanna.
Citing Luke’s story as an example, Rouisanna elaborates on how his father had committed suicide a few years back. His mother – the sole breadwinner of the family – suffers from chronic depression and is unable to work at times. Besides the mounting financial difficulties faced by the family, Luke has to take on a “parent role” in looking after his mother, while juggling school work and figuring out life as he grew up.
Determined to help her charges, Rouisanna shares how she tries to see the best in each youth while offering a strong and comforting presence, a listening ear and a shoulder of support for all.
“I see the probationers not as ‘cases’ but as people,” said Rouisanna. “I want to establish a relationship of trust, so that they would turn to me for support.”
These then work together to help her build a stronger relationship with the probationers – that not only helps her in her line of work – but also bolsters her personal and professional development, as she grows alongside her youths.