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More former inmates re-offend after their release, says S'pore Prison Service

The number of ex-inmates who committed offences again after being released increased in 2013 compared to 2012. But encouragingly, more ordinary Singaporeans are also coming forward to assist inmates and their families.

SINGAPORE: Singapore has one of the lowest rates globally of inmates who commit offences after their release. However, statistics from the Singapore Prison Service showed that as of the end of 2013, 27.4 per cent of those released in 2011 were sent back to prison. This is compared to 23.6 per cent in the previous year.

The number of re-offenders released from Drug Rehabilitation Centres in 2011 also increased to 31.1 per cent, up from 27.5 per cent in 2010.

In addition, the statistics showed that the profile of the inmates in DRCs may be changing -- 2013 saw an increase in the number of inmates who had at least tertiary education. The numbers increased from 53 in 2012 to 75 in 2013.

However, this may not change the type of assistance that inmates need.

Superintedent Abdul Karim Shahul Hameed, deputy director of Reintegration and Community Collaboration Services at the SPS, said: "Regardless of the profile of offenders, we really need to look at the needs of the offenders. Prior to their release, they need to find a job, they need proper accommodation, they need finances. Our priority is to ensure that when they are released, they have the necessary after-care support."

He said the first six months after release are critical for a former inmate and this is where the community can play a part.

Statistics showed that more than 520 volunteers were trained in 2013 as part of the Yellow Ribbon Community Project, compared to 395 in 2012. They were trained to work with families of inmates before their release from prison.

The increase in volunteers meant the number of families of inmates they could assist almost doubled -- 1,569 families of inmates were approached to be helped by volunteers in 2013, compared to 811 in 2012.

The volunteers are trained to be sensitive in approaching the families prior to the release of inmates, and also to assess what type of help is needed, including financial or medical assistance.

The project also includes the Befriender's Programme.

Edna Tan, a grassroots befriender and Yellow Ribbon champion, said: "Some of the inmates do not have regular visits by families, so they feel way off. They are not sure when they are released, if the families will be able to accept them. So the befrienders come in.

"They are the ones who will give them support in terms of advice, in terms of referring them to certain agencies and sometimes to bring them to even meet their own friends... In terms of family members, when the befrienders speak to their family members, they feel more positive because the befriender is there to support the family."

The number of employers signing on with the Singapore Corporation of Rehabilitative Enterprise (SCORE) also increased by 419 compared to the previous year. About 400 more inmates also secured a job even before their release from prison compared to 2012.

The Prison Service said it aims to introduce more schemes to provide care for inmates after their release.

It will aim to roll out the Conditional Remission System to help deter inmates from re-offending, while the Mandatory Aftercare Scheme provides aftercare arrangements for eligible former inmates immediately after their release. 

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