SINGAPORE - By the first quarter of 2023, all newly admitted inmates at Changi Prison will undergo an assessment to establish the needs of their families, and those who require support will be referred to family service centres (FSC) for help.
A trial conducted by the Singapore Prison Service (SPS) from 2018 to 2020 found that families of inmates need more support during the first and last six months of the incarceration. At the start, dynamics may be unstable for reasons such as loss of income or caregiving help. Towards the end, families would need to prepare for the inmates' return and provide support for their reintegration.
Assistant commissioner and director of rehabilitation and reintegration division of the SPS, Ms Caroline Lim, said inmates are often worried about their families when they first enter prison, which would in turn distract them from focusing on what they need to do.
"The collaboration is important, because if inmates are worried about how their family is doing on the outside, that distracts them from their own rehabilitation process," she said. "Through the trial, we found that once the family is stabilised, they can be a very strong source of support for inmates as they go through their stay in prison."
The SPS and FSCs have an ongoing collaboration to provide the families of inmates, especially those with young children, with support systems.
Ms Lim added that efforts to assist and involve the families of inmates in their rehabilitation is also to mitigate the risk of inter-generational offending. In 2017, a study by the SPS found that one in every five inmates who is a parent will have a child who will commit a criminal offence themselves.
Fei Yue Family Service Centre social worker Amelia Lim said that with this collaboration, help can be given to families in areas such as housing, finances and counselling.
"We serve as a service linkage for the families to financial and housing boards," said Ms Amelia Lim. "We refer them to agencies such as social service office for financial assistance, and appeal on their behalf to the Housing Board. We also provide counselling support, which gives them an avenue to share their thoughts and concerns, and be attuned to their emotions."
The pilot programme was launched in October 2020 for all newly admitted local female inmates, and was expanded to newly admitted local male inmates in the Drug Rehabilitation Centres and Remand Centre in May and October 2021 respectively. Since its start, more than 800 inmates have been assessed, and more than 400 families have been helped.
Speaking to reporters at a media event held at Fei Yue Family Service Centre on Friday (Aug 26), Minister of State for Home Affairs Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim said that engaging inmates early upon their entry to prison is necessary to lighten their families' feeling of loss, and allow them to continue with their lives.
"I meet the inmates quite often, and one of the key things they are happy about is that we have improved our efforts to keep them in touch with their families. Knowing that someone out there is looking after the family while they are in prison, that gives them a peace of mind," he added.
Correction note: An earlier version of the story said that one in every five children of drug offenders had committed a criminal offence themselves. This is inaccurate. One in every five inmates who is a parent will have a child who will commit a criminal offence themselves.