SINGAPORE: The number of former prison inmates who break the law again within two years of their release has remained low and stable, the Singapore Prison Service (SPS) said on Tuesday (Feb 6).
In a news release, the prison service said the overall recidivism rate for the 2015 cohort of inmates was 25.9 per cent, lower than the 26.5 per cent for the 2014 cohort and the same as the 2013 cohort. It attributed this to SPS working closely with community partners for the rehabilitation and reintegration of offenders, strong community support and help for ex-offenders to secure stable and gainful employment.
SPS also noted that more employers than ever were registered with the Singapore Corporation of Rehabilitative Enterprises (SCORE), which matches soon-to-be released inmates to jobs. There were 5,520 employers registered with SCORE in 2017, compared to 5,093 in 2016 and 4,745 in 2015.
In 2017, 97 per cent of inmates who were referred to SCORE found work before they left prison - comparable to the 95 per cent in 2016 and 96 per cent in 2015.
The prison service also noted that community-based programmes play a significant role in helping offenders break the cycle of re-offending.
Suitable inmates are placed on such programmes at the tail-end of their sentences to facilitate their gradual reintegration into the community. For example, some might be allowed to work during the day and return home or to prison at night, while others might attend such programmes at a halfway house.
Corrections rehabilitation specialists will meet up periodically with the offenders to go through with them how to cope with the challenges they face.
Assistant Commissioner of Prisons Rockey Francisco Junior said the post-release phase is a crucial period during which ex-offenders experience challenges and pressures upon returning to their families and the community.
“The stresses of real life kick in once they are released - the pressures of work, family, finances and so on and that is where the real challenge and real work begins," he said.
“Community-based programmes provide support and step-down arrangements for inmates, giving them a better chance of staying crime and drug-free when released."
The structured programme has helped 49-year-old “John”, not his real name, gain confidence to not fall back into his drug habit. “John” was released from the Drug Rehabilitation Centre seven months ago and he had spent six of those months tagged with an electronic monitoring device to ensure he keeps to his curfew after he ends work daily. He had secured his job as a cleaner prior to his release.
"If you're having problems, you must have someone to turn to and my counsellor is very open. He says anytime can call or contact them, but so far so good,” said “John” who was caught for consuming ecstasy in 2016. He picked up the habit in 2015.
“I was diagnosed with cancer and after treatments and everything I was depressed and started clubbing a lot. Then when my friend offered me and I tried it, I felt alive.”
“John” credits being back on the straight and narrow to strong family and community support and added that colleagues at his current workplace are “very accepting”.
Between 2014 and 2016, almost all offenders completed their programme.