SINGAPORE: A new government halfway house for ex-offenders will be ready by 2018.
Once ready, it will be the first of its kind in Singapore, and is part of plans to beef up capacity in anticipation of the new Mandatory After Care Scheme.
The scheme is for a small group of ex-inmates considered "high risk".
They are likely to be repeat offenders convicted of drug offences, other crimes related to drugs or serious crimes such as rape.
Such ex-inmates will be placed on the scheme for up to two years upon release.
They will be placed in a halfway house, then home supervision and subsequently community integration.
Currently, after-care arrangements are on a voluntary basis, and provided by faith-based organisations.
Chia Shih Sheung, CEO of The Helping Hand, said: "Physically there are limited bed spaces within all the different halfway houses. Skills-wise, the staff of the various halfway houses may not have enough skills sets to do proper rehabilitation, intervention for ex-offenders."
There are eight halfway houses working with Singapore Prison Service, capable of housing about 450 ex-offenders.
Only one such facility is for women.
Once the Mandatory After Care system is in place, authorities estimate about 1,700 ex-inmates coming on stream, every year,
To cope, Channel NewsAsia was told that the government will run its own halfway house.
Terrence Goh, director of rehabilitation & reintegration at Singapore Prison Service, said: "The current halfway houses would be adequate for the current inmates who are released before the two-third mark (of the prison sentence). Currently based on our assessment they are good at rehabilitating inmates who are of low and moderate risk groups.
“The issues and challenges are slightly different from the group that the government halfway house would be dealing with, where the offenders come with more complex issues. We will continue to work with our religious volunteer partners.”
Authorities studied similar facilities in the jurisdictions like the US in coming up with the new halfway house model.
The new facility, to be ready in about three to four years, will be built where the Selarang Park Community Supervision Centre is located.
It will be a purpose-built facility, with not just a halfway house but also a pre-release centre for inmates serving the tail end of their prison term.
The first batch of ex-inmates on the Mandatory After Care scheme is expected to come on board by mid-2016. In the interim, they will be housed in a refurbished disused prison facility located along Cosford Road, near the Prisons complex.
Current halfway houses run by voluntary welfare organisations will continue to take in ex-offenders considered to be in the low and moderate risk groups.
"I think it's a really good thing because then almost all the ex-offenders can go through the halfway house. I would imagine that the government-run halfway house would have enough capacity, proper training for the staff," said Mr Chia.
For now, efforts are already underway to recruit more counsellors trained in dealing with high-risk offenders.
Mr Goh said: “Our community partners and volunteers also play an important role in the rehabilitation of ex-offenders. Therefore in this regard we have actually come up with a new training and development framework to help them improve their skills set.”
There are currently about 80 counsellors within the Prison Service, and the prison population stands at about 13,000. - CNA/xq
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