SINGAPORE: The Home Affairs Ministry will be amending the Prisons Act this year to help repeat offenders break the cycle of re—offending and transit from imprisonment to reintegration within the community.
Senior Minister of State for Home Affairs Masagos Zulkifli told Parliament on Thursday that with the amendments, a Conditional Remission System (CRS) will be introduced.
Under the CRS, all inmates released at the two—third mark of their sentence will be subject to "certain conditions" during the remission period. "Those who breach these conditions will be taken to task," he said. Details on these conditions have yet to be released.
Mr Masagos said the implementation of the CRS will also allow the Prisons Department to place high—risk ex—inmates on a Mandatory Aftercare Scheme.
This is part of a broader through—care strategy to help inmates in the period before and after their release.
This will be achieved through a structured step—down approach in control and supervision from prisons to the community, with the provision of aftercare support, counselling, and case management upon their release.
As part of this through—care strategy, the government will develop a halfway house in the Selarang Park Complex to provide a structured environment to supervise and rehabilitate high—risk ex—inmates on the Mandatory Aftercare Scheme.
This will complement the efforts of current halfway house partners who will work with moderate to low—risk offenders.
Mr Masagos said the prisons recidivism rate for the 2010 release cohort has dropped to 23.6 per cent, from 26.7 per cent for the 2009 release cohort.
He stressed there was no room for complacency and explained that although a lower recidivism rate meant fewer ex—offenders are returning to the prisons, many who did return were repeat offenders.
Mr Masagos said repeat offenders account for more than 80 per cent of the prison population and are more likely to re—offend upon their release.
Turning to the drug situation in Singapore, the Senior Minister of State said while local heroin seizures dropped slightly between 2011 and 2012, methamphetamine seizures have increased more than three times — from 14 kilogrammes to 51 kilogrammes over the same period.
Around eight kilogrammes of methamphetamine were meant for local market consumption and this amount was enough to feed the addiction of around 1,000 drug abusers over 30 days.
So Mr Masagos said the key challenge going forward will be methamphetamine or "Ice" abuse.
"Let us be very clear about the dangers of methamphetamine," he said. "It is a misperception among younger people that it is less addictive and harmful than heroin. This is not true at all."
"Some youths use methamphetamine to lose weight or to keep up their energy levels. Prolonged abuse of methamphetamine leads to long—term health problems, such as liver damage, stroke, and eventually, death. So please, anyone who knows of a person abusing methamphetamine should alert the authorities and help him or her to seek assistance. You are saving his or her life," he said.
So the ministry is increasing its downstream efforts, where it will seek to keep people on the right path, and provide opportunities for rehabilitation and aftercare in partnership with the community.
This will be done by enhancing the Direct Supervision Order for new young low—risk drug abusers.
Currently, they are only required to report for regular urine tests.
Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) is working with the Ministry of Social and Family Development to introduce a compulsory counselling component for these drug abusers by the first quarter of financial year 2013 and will involve their families.
For new young drug abusers of moderate risk, Prisons will establish a Community Rehabilitation Centre (CRC) as a step down arrangement after a period of detention in the Drug Rehabilitation Centre.
"Once transferred to the CRC, these young offenders will participate in a structured residential component and attend compulsory counselling sessions in the evenings. They will be allowed to continue their education or employment in the day to minimise disruption to their daily lives," said Mr Masagos.
The ministry expects the Community Rehabilitation Centre to commence operations by the end of this year.
Mr Masagos also stressed that the community has played a key role in helping to rehabilitate ex—offenders.
He said: "The Community Outreach Project or ’COP’ was a key initiative launched in September 2010. It involves the community helping offenders’ families link up with the relevant government agencies for social assistance and support in other areas.
"Since then, the COP has grown tremendously, from a small pilot programme with 7 grassroots divisions initially to 44 as of December 2012. More than 390 grassroots volunteers have been trained to reach out to over 780 offenders’ families."
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