Greater community support helps to keep more former inmates out of jail
Greater community support for ex-offenders has paid off - with overall fewer ex-inmates imprisoned for re-offending.
This, according to the Singapore Prison Service's annual report card.
However, drug offenders who were released from Drug Rehabilitation Centres recorded a higher percentage of re-offending.
The clang of prison gates is a harsh sound but life after incarceration can be harsher.
For some inmates who have no family support they might not have a job, or even a home to return to after they're released.
Correctional Rehabilitation Specialist with Singapore Prison Services, Chavez Ong says they rope in the community for support.
"We actually work together with our partners, let's say, HDB - we've been liasing with them to look into this issue. We also look into halfway houses for placement. And we also try to reach out to their families again, because for us, family involvement during the rehabilitation process is one of the very crucial factors."
And the greater community support for ex-prisoners has paid off.
The Singapore Prison Service said that the overall recidivism rate - which is the rate at which prisoners re-offend and return to jail within two years of release - fell to 23.6 per cent for those released in 2010...down from 26.7 per cent for those who were released in 2009.
On average, about 9,000 local inmates are released from prison each year. In 1998, the recidivism rate was 44.4 percent, but in recent years it's hovered around 26 to 27 per cent.
About 20 per cent more employers have joined the effort to hire ex-offenders...which means more inmates found jobs before they were released.
The number of employers who are part of the Singapore Corporation of Rehabilitative Enterprises now stands at 3,457, compared with 2,872 in 2011, and 2,459 in 2010.
More volunteers have joined the community outreach programme to support the families of these inmates. The programme now has 390 registered and trained volunteers - an increase of 69 per cent from 2011.
But for drug offenders, a higher number re-offended.
The recidivism rate for those released from the drug rehabilitation centres in 2010 was 27.5 per cent - slightly higher than the 27.1 per cent of 2009.
To tackle this, repeat drug offenders at higher risk of re-offending must now go through a more robust mandatory supervision programme upon their release.
Besides urine tests and electronic monitoring, there'll be compulsory case work and counselling.
Reintegration Officer with Singapore Prison Service, Rubiana Shamsul says this will help them manage any negative influence they may face.
"So basically these offenders will actually face challenges when they go back to their old neighbourhood and they would be facing their old circle of friends and that's where the temptation would come in. So from there, we're trying to curb this by having our regular counselling sessions. Another challenge they would be facing is finding gainful employment - we'd like to motivate them to have pro-social activities in their leisure time, so they don't have the temptation to go back to doing what they were doing before."
About 1,000 drug offenders are expected to be supervised this way in 2013 and 2014.
-By Kimberly Spykerman
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