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Parliament passes changes to Prisons Act

Parliament has passed changes to the Prisons Act that will bring about a conditional remission system and a Mandatory Aftercare Scheme.

SINGAPORE: Parliament has passed changes to the Prisons Act that will bring about a conditional remission system and a Mandatory Aftercare Scheme (MAS).

The MAS is a structured two-year regime that provides community support, counselling, as well as tighter supervision for ex-inmates who need more help re-integrating into society.

Conditional remission, on the other hand, imposes conditions on inmates who are granted remission for good conduct and behaviour in prison.

Released persons who breach the conditions could be sent back to jail.

Calling both schemes a "significant undertaking for the prison system", Senior Minister of State for Home Affairs Masagos Zulkifli assured the House that prisons have sufficient capacity, should there be any increase in the prison population resulting from the schemes.

Inmates will continue to be released at the two-third mark. Upon release, they will then be issued with a Conditional Remission Order (CRO) which will last till the end of their sentence.

Take for example a repeat drug abuser who was sentenced to jail for six years. He is subsequently released from prison after serving four years, or at the two-third mark of his six-year sentence.

He is then issued a CRO and as a drug offender, he is also emplaced on the MAS for up to two years.

During this time, he must not re-offend or he could be sent back to jail.

A selected group of ex-inmates will also be put on mandatory aftercare, for instance, drug offenders. The two-year regime includes counselling, vocational training and a curfew.

As for inmates who have served more than 20 years in prison, Mr Masagos said an independent Review Board will be set up to review these cases and advise the minister accordingly.

He said the assessment will be based on factors that include the person’s conduct and progress in prison and the person’s risk of re-offending.

The prison system will also be building up its aftercare capabilities and strengthening the aftercare sector as a whole.

Mr Masagos said more counsellors and case workers will be hired.

Other changes to the Prisons Act include an External Placement Scheme, which will allow medically-certified inmates who are at the end stage of a terminal illness to be placed in more suitable facilities outside of prison.

The role of auxiliary police in prisons will also be expanded to include escorting inmates and patrols within prisons.

Currently, auxiliary police officers only escort low- and medium-security inmates to external locations, like courts and hospitals.

Mr Masagos said the auxiliary police will not be involved in rehabilitation functions and will be specially trained.

He said the amendment will not compromise prison security or the safe custody of inmates. 

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