An independent review board will be set up to consider whether inmates who have been imprisoned for at least 20 years can be released early, even if they have not yet served two-thirds of their sentences, said Senior Minister of State for Home Affairs Masagos Zulkifli on Tuesday.
He made the announcement before Parliament passed changes to the Prisons Act, including the introduction of the Conditional Remission System (CRS), which makes inmates' early release for good conduct conditional on them not re-offending. Currently, inmates who behave well can be released after serving two-thirds of their sentences, with no conditions imposed upon their release.
However, one amendment allows long-term inmates who have served at least 20 years to be considered for remission, even if they have not reached the two-third mark. Their cases will also be reviewed annually, as is done for those on life imprisonment.
During the debate on the Bill, both Ms Sylvia Lim (Aljunied GRC) and Non-Constituency MP Lina Chiam had asked for greater clarity on how these long-term inmates' cases would be reviewed. They raised the example of Hong Kong, where there is a board to review long-term inmates for remission according to publicly-gazetted factors.
Responding to their concerns, Mr Masagos said the independent board to be set up here will review the cases of long-term prisoners and advise the Home Affairs Minister accordingly, similar to what is done by the board looking into inmates on life imprisonment. The board will look at a "holistic set of factors", including the inmate's conduct and progress in prison and his risk of re-offending, he said.
Another key change passed on Tuesday is the Mandatory Aftercare Scheme, a structured step-down programme for inmates released under the CRS but who are deemed to be at higher risk of re-offending. The scheme, which will last up to two years, has three phases: a halfway house stay, home supervision, and community reintegration