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New Perspective: "People-Centred Justice System" Tackles Online Scams, Mentally Disordered Ex-Offenders and Repeat Offenses
In the realm of justice, a fresh perspective has emerged, one that places the people at its heart. This innovative approach seeks to address the issues of online scams, the violence instigated by mentally disordered ex-offenders and the recurrence of offenses related to substance abuse. The concept of a "people-centred justice system" is designed to ensure that justice truly serves all members of society.
On August 25, 2023, a significant event known as the "TIJ-UNODC Public Forum: People-Centered Justice Solutions" took place. This platform aimed to showcase the outcomes of initiatives promoting a justice system that prioritizes the well-being of its citizens. Participants in the Executive Programme for the Implementation of International Standards and Norms in Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice (iCPCJ) by the Thailand Institute of Justice (TIJ) gathered, representing various sectors, including law enforcement, private sector, civil society, and mass media. They identified some challenges within the Thai justice system and compared them to international standards and practices to generate innovative proposals for enhancing justice in Thai society. Here are three key proposals:
Proposal 1: The "Instant Noodle Model" for Countering Deceptive Money Transfers
Shortly after Thailand witnessed the rise of a new Prime Minister with a digital wallet agenda, a deceptive message began circulating among citizens. It encouraged them to install a fake mobile app to transfer money instantly. That is a phenomenon known as "criminal speed." It was evident that this type of crime required both technology and speed to hinder the deception.
Viewing the situation from a "people-centered" perspective, it becomes clear that victims of these deceptive money transfers urgently require assistance from the government, primarily in the form of swift refunds or blocking the flow of funds transferred through numerous mule accounts. This need surpasses the mere apprehension of wrongdoers, which is the primary responsibility of the police. Consequently, solving the issue of deceptive money transfers cannot rely solely on law enforcement.
When citizens fall prey to online scams, they often encounter difficulties in tracking and recovering their money. This process involves dealing with multiple bank accounts, leading to lengthy communication with various banks due to differing account numbers. Furthermore, victims may spend an entire day navigating the process, ultimately watching their money disappear through multiple mule accounts.
Even from a banking perspective, it takes a considerable amount of time to confirm and freeze accounts after being notified of a scam. Subsequently, emails must be sent to other banks to trace the path of the transferred funds. Only then can law enforcement extend the duration of account freezing from the initial 72 hours to a more practical 7 days. Additionally, law enforcement officers must deal with the SMS service providers who send the fraudulent messages, contact the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society to suppress websites, and even trace IP addresses before summoning the account holders for interrogation.
This "game" heavily favors the criminals, with victims losing before the competition even begins. It relies on "speed" as a tool for victory.
The government acknowledges these challenges and has issued regulations in 2022 to combat technology-related crimes. However, examining the figures for online fraud cases in the 15 months following the regulations' implementation (from March 1, 2022, to August 12, 2023), it is evident that numerous citizens – a staggering 310,000 cases – were still lured into transferring money, resulting in a total loss of 42 billion Thai Baht. This underscores the ongoing difficulties in coordinating efforts between various governmental and private-sector entities to establish an effective central management center.
What victims truly require is "swift refunds, immediate incident reporting, instant account freezes, and real-time self-tracking."
This public forum proposes a solution to address the issue of deceptive online money transfers through the "Instant Noodle Model," consisting of three steps: 1. A centralized hotline for incident reporting with a single phone number, 2. Immediate account freezes followed by inquiries to avoid redundant information sharing, and 3. Real-time self-tracking through reliable government apps like ThaiD and other state-affiliated applications.
Among these steps, the most challenging is the second – establishing a centralized Anti-Fraud Center (AFC) where every bank assigns representatives to work together in the same office, handling cases concurrently. If established, this model has a chance of success. Simultaneously, efforts are underway to establish a Central Fraud Registry to link databases of offenders involved in deceptive money transfers, a project expected to be completed soon by the Thai Bankers' Association.
Proposal #2: The TOR Model - Breaking the Cycle of Mentally Disordered Ex-Offenders
Over the past two years, the statistics from the Department of Mental Health of Thailand have been nothing short of alarming. The numbers reveal that a whopping 3,815 mentally ill patients have committed acts of violence, with a shocking 510 of them being repeat offenders. These are individuals who have a history of criminal behavior. However, during their stays in correctional institutes, they stayed calm and normal because they received intensive care, including continuous medication management.
The Model proposed here, pioneered in Nakhon Sawan province, is at the forefront of the fight against recidivism among mentally ill patients. This model emphasizes a deep dive into the root causes that lead these individuals to reoffend. Studies have shown that while under institutional care, patients are diligently monitored and receive proper medication. However, once released, they often return to families ill-equipped to provide the same level of care, leading to a relapse in their mental health conditions.
Nakhon Sawan's "Kao Liew" district has emerged as a shining example of community involvement, bridging the gap between the public sector and private citizens, forming what is now known as the "Kao Liew Network." This network has evolved into the TOR Model, making the local community an active partner in the care of its members. The state plays a role in supporting and advancing this model, promising a brighter future in combating repeat offenses among mentally ill individuals.
The core of this model lies in the "5 Kalyanamit" (5 Good Friends) group, comprising village leaders, local government officials, community health volunteers, relatives of patients, and support groups. These dedicated individuals work tirelessly to identify and assist patients throughout the entire process, from early intervention and locating patients within the community to guiding them through the healthcare system and rehabilitation. It is a network of support like no other, significantly helps the mentally disordered patients.
The primary goal of this proposal? Ensuring that mentally ill patients have access to continuous and proper medication management, just like they do when in institutional care. With the success of the "Kao Liew Model," it is time to spread its wings and implement this groundbreaking approach nationwide, following the TOR principles of Technology, Organized efforts, and building strong Relations. By integrating technology to connect patient data, applying innovative treatment methods, and strengthening community bonds, Thailand is on the path to truly reduce repeat offenses among mentally ill individuals.
Proposal #3: SANRAK Model - Fostering Community and Innovation to Curb Recidivism Among Substance Abusers
Now, let's shift our focus to a different challenge: substance abuse and the cycle of repeat offenses it perpetuates within the Thai prison system.
In August 2023, Thailand's prison population stood at a staggering 212,640 individuals. Shockingly, a whopping 78% of these inmates were drug offenders. Even more concerning is the trend that has persisted over 3 years—30% of those released from drug-related offenses end up back in prison. These individuals face numerous hurdles when trying to reintegrate into society, including a criminal record, lack of family support, and limited job opportunities, which often lead them back to the drug trade.
The "Half-way House Model" provides a solution by offering a place for former offenders to stay, providing accommodations, drug rehabilitation, skill training, and opportunities for sustainable income generation. This innovative approach empowers individuals to regain their footing in society, supporting them in becoming self-sufficient. The SANRAK Model takes it a step further, tackling the issue of recidivism caused by drug addiction through a three-tiered strategy: Prevention, Treatment, and Rehabilitation.
1. Prevention: Leveraging cutting-edge technology such as AI Monitoring and Social Listening Platforms, the SANRAK Model aims to proactively detect online drug-related activities. By analyzing online chatter, it is possible to identify individuals involved in drug trade, making it harder for them to access illicit substances.
2. Treatment: Enter the revolutionary Microneedle—a tiny, safe device designed to administer drugs more securely. It is poised to enhance the current Harm Reduction approach, particularly in dealing with Methadone users. This advancement ensures that patients receive proper treatment without the risk of misuse.
3. Rehabilitation: Finally, the SANRAK Model introduces the concept of "SANRAK Homes" on a provincial or community level. These homes operate as social enterprises, offering former offenders a chance to develop marketable skills, engage with the community, and contribute to their own well-being. By redirecting profits from product sales and services back into the SANRAK Home, it becomes a self-sustaining initiative. Key stakeholders in this process include former drug offenders, government agencies, private entities, families, and communities.
With this comprehensive approach, the SANRAK Model aims to break the cycle of recidivism among drug offenders. By investing just 6 million baht initially and achieving full capital return within 8.5 years, this model can accommodate up to 30 residents, offering them a path to reintegrate into society and support themselves. Furthermore, expansion and sustainability can be achieved through crowdfunding and donations.