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"This response doesn't work? Let's double down."

This week: Deterrence isn't working out when it comes to drugs, so the government wants more deterrence.

I made a very silly mistake in last week’s wrap! I said that paternity leave had been increased from two years to four years — it should have been two weeks to four! 🫣

What an embarrassing mistake to make... on the bright side, the number of you who got in touch to alert me to it was much more valuable than any metric about open rates or page views, because it proves that you’re all reading the newsletter and care enough to flag things. Thank you! 🥰

After fixing the typo on the site, I was in two minds about what to do — should I send out another email to tell everyone, or should I just wait until this week to highlight the correction? I ended up holding back because I didn’t want to be spammy, but now I want to ask all of you what you’d prefer if there are corrections to be sent out in the future. Obviously, if it was a really big, significant error then I’ll email everyone right away, but what about relatively minor mistakes and typos?

Click on your preferred option below to vote!

1️⃣ Send out a correction email immediately!

2️⃣ Correct it on the website and flag it in the next issue

It's like deterrence doesn't work

The Ministry of Home Affairs is looking to make penalties even harsher for drug offences. They've tabled an amendment bill to the Misuse of Drugs Act that seeks to include caning for possession of controlled drugs—like heroin, meth, or cannabis—that exceed a certain amount. They also want to amend the Constitution of Singapore to allow the police to arrest and detain for "treatment and rehabilitation" (read: send to DRC, which is prison) users of new psychoactive substances, and to introduce a framework that will control substances based on whether they produce a psychoactive effect, rather than based on their chemical make-up.

The ministry's statement is actually very telling about how Singapore's current punitive policies don't work. This is what they say:

Hey, this sure sounds like the death penalty and other punitive approaches aren't actually deterring people... it's also possible that the policing and punitive approach might be pushing drug users to purchase more drugs in a single transaction, so that they reduce the number of interactions they have with their dealer and therefore minimise the risk of getting caught. These issues aren't unique to Singapore, and some other countries have acknowledged that the war on drugs isn't working out and have shifted towards other solutions.

What is MHA's response to this situation? "A more deterrent punishment is necessary."

So many people are going to suffer because of this. As mentioned in this newsletter before, there is a spectrum of drug use, and only a fraction of people have chronic, harmful use. What they need is harm reduction, care, and if they want it, treatment based on the best available science. But lots of people are going to be caught up in the arrests and detentions, and people who have already been through DRC have said that it's soul-destroying and isn't a conducive place for recovery. Caning, which is violent and painful and brutal and traumatic, is also going to end up causing more harm than good.

We can't punish and brutalise and kill our way out of drug use and the drug trade. There is no shortage of research about harm reduction approaches. What we're seeing here is an ideological commitment to punishment, instead of the prioritisation of health (public and individual), community, support and care.

Tak boleh tahan

The Budget debates are ongoing, and Pritam Singh of the Workers' Party spoke about the emergence of "Two Singapores" if more isn't done to deal with inequality. The reality is that this has long been the case; there's a huge gap between haves and have-nots, and many households have been really severely hit by the pandemic.

The second townhall in the Tak Boleh Tahan! 2023 series is taking place at The Projector tomorrow afternoon. The title is 'Do we have to work till we drop dead?' They'll be discussing CPF and the welfare system, and what needs to change so that Singaporeans can feel secure about our future. Chope your ticket here!

Children and the Internal Security Act

It's now reported that, in November last year, a 15-year-old boy was detained under the ISA, making him the youngest ISA detainee ever. The ISD claim that he self-radicalised after coming across a podcast by a segregationist preacher who has been banned from Singapore since 2015.

Another 16-year-old teenager was issued restriction orders under the ISA.

Again, a reminder that everything we know about the ISA and the detainees are the things the ISD want us to know, when they want us to know it. There is a lack of meaningful independent oversight. In any case, detention without trial is a terrible way to deal with anyone, much less children.

The last meal I had in Melbourne last week involved these cheeseburger spring rolls. Very sinful. I'm still thinking about them. I regret nothing.

Thank you for reading this week! As always, please help me spread the word about this newsletter by sharing it widely.