Drug offenders in prisons rehab regime up by 65% last year; recidivism rate remains stable

Rahman (not his real name) is one of 2,080 drug offenders admitted into the Drug Rehabilitation Centre last year. This was an increase of 65 per cent compared with 2018, following changes to the Misuse of Drugs Act. PHOTO: SINGAPORE PRISONS SERVICE

SINGAPORE - The number of drug offenders who were admitted to the Drug Rehabilitation Centre (DRC) increased by 65 per cent last year, following changes to the Misuse of Drugs Act.

Among other things, the changes allow for those who had re-offended for a third time or more to be sent to the DRC instead of long-term imprisonment.

As a result, the number of drug offenders who were admitted to long-term imprisonment dropped from 991 admissions in 2018 to 459 admissions last year.

The Singapore Prison Service (SPS) said under the DRC regime, inmates go through psychology-based correctional programmes and skills training, as well as family support and religious services.

Latest figures released by SPS on Friday (Feb 7) also showed that the two-year recidivism rate for prison inmates who were released in 2017 remained stable at 24 per cent.

The recidivism rate for inmates who were released in 2016 was 23.7 per cent, compared with 25.9 per cent for the 2015 cohort.

Separately, SPS said more offenders were placed on community corrections programmes last year - from 1,998 in 2018 to 2,415 in 2019.

Community corrections programmes allow offenders to be rehabilitated in the community while still being supervised.

These programmes include the Day Reporting Order scheme, where offenders are free to go out but have to report back regularly to prison officers.

SPS said more employers also registered with the Singapore Corporation of Rehabilitative Enterprises (Score), which helps to identify job opportunities for offenders before they are released.

Last year, a total of 5,603 employers were registered with Score, a 5.6 per cent increase compared with the previous year.

The proportion of inmates who were referred to Score and secured a job prior to their release remained stable at 96 per cent last year, compared with 96 per cent in 2018 and 97 per cent in 2017.

Commenting on the DRC programme, Superintendent of Prisons Loh Hong Wai said the aim is to help inmates deal with the psychological and emotional aspects of their drug abuse, and to equip them with the knowledge and skills to prevent relapse .

"At the DRC, by understanding the factors that led abusers to use drugs, we are able to tailor our rehabilitation regime accordingly," he explained.

"This helps us to provide structured and evidence-based interventions that are more effective in preventing further drug abuse.

"Even after their release, we continue to provide support to ease their transition back into the community, giving them a better chance of staying drug-free in the long run," he added.

DRC inmate Rahman (not his real name) has been in and out of prison for more than six years for drug abuse.

He said upon returning to DRC last year on his third drug-abuse conviction, he learnt how to cope with difficulties in his life without turning to drugs.

The 32-year-old spent a year in DRC after his first conviction in 2013 for abusing heroin, and again in 2015 for taking methamphetamine, also known as Ice.

Last year, he was convicted for abusing heroin and returned to DRC.

This time, however, he said he is determined to stay off drugs for good, with the help of rehabilitation programmes that have taught him how to cope with his emotions better.

Rahman is one of 2,080 inmates who were admitted to DRC last year. In 2018, 1,257 drug offenders were admitted to the regime.

Speaking to the media on Thursday in an interview facilitated by the SPS, Rahman said he is grateful that he has now learnt how to manage his emotions better.

"In the past, when things didn't go my way, or when I didn't get to see my kids because of my ex-wife, I turned to drugs.

"Now, I've learnt how to cope with my emotions by opening up to people when I need help," said the divorced father of two children, aged nine and six.

He added that he hopes he will be able to find a stable job after his discharge later this year.

"My parents have been giving me so many chances... I want to give myself a chance this time," he said.

"My parents won't be around forever. They deserve a chance to see me change for the better."

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