Reoffending by recently released inmates in S'pore at lowest point in 30 years

Inmates at the Prison School at Institution Tanah Merah 1. PHOTO: SINGAPORE PRISON SERVICE

SINGAPORE - Recidivism rates for the local inmate population within two years of release are at their lowest in 30 years, the Singapore Prison Service (SPS) said on Wednesday (Feb 9).

SPS' annual statistics release also showed that of the Singaporean and permanent resident offenders released from SPS custody in 2019, only 20 per cent were detained, sentenced to jail, or given a day reporting order within two years of their release.

In comparison, the two-year recidivism rate for those released in 2018 was at 22.1 per cent.

Singapore's two-year recidivism rate has hovered around 25 per cent for the past ten years.

In a speech in 2019, Minister for Home Affairs K. Shanmugam said he had seen figures from first-world countries where the two-year recidivism rate was at 60 per cent or 65 per cent.

Speaking to the media on Tuesday, SPS director for corporate communications and relations Rafidah Suparman said the organisation's throughcare approach has contributed to the declining recidivism rate.

This approach focuses on assisting the inmates through evidence-based rehabilitation programmes and also helping them when they re-enter the community, which is the most challenging part for the newly-released, according to Assistant Commissioner of Prisons Rafidah.

She said that inmates often require support and reintegration programmes to help them with employment, while some might even need help sorting out accommodation issues.

She added: "The aftercare support that we provide includes (helping them) stay employed, and we also help them rekindle bonds with their family members as some of them do not have positive experiences with their families."

Community corrections programmes also help inmates reintegrate into society, said AC Rafidah.

Last year, 3,402 inmates were in community corrections, which comprise community-based programmes, mandatory aftercare and community-based sentences.

Suitable offenders on community-based programmes are allowed to serve the tail end of their sentence in the community with conditions imposed, such as electronic tagging and regular reporting to a reintegration officer.

The schemes include home detention and staying at a halfway house, as well as work release, with offenders staying at Selarang Park Complex after work hours.

The number of inmates placed in community corrections last year was similar to 2020's 3,426 - a 42 per cent increase from 2019.

Getting a job can also help former offenders reintegrate into the community, said director of Careers@YR at Yellow Ribbon Singapore (YRSG) Karen Tan.

Last year, YRSG provided employment assistance to about 3,000 inmates, with 94 per cent of them securing jobs before their release.

These jobs were largely in the administrative and support services, food services and wholesale and retail trade industries.

Ms Tan said: "Gainful employment facilitates rehabilitation and reintegration by providing  former offenders with a stable income and financial stability.

"At Yellow Ribbon Singapore, we do this via a comprehensive approach, not just by providing them employment via our placement services, but also assisting them to (retain) their jobs - that is through our career retention support offered by our career coaches."

In 2021, 2,615 inmates underwent work programmes during their incarceration period. These programmes aim to provide them with vocational and employability skills in a real work environment. This is a decrease compared with the 2,902 inmates who underwent such programmes in 2020. 

YRSG told The Straits Times that the Covid-19 pandemic and safe management measures have affected the business performance of the workshops operating in prisons, resulting in fewer inmates engaged in work programmes. 

It added: “There has also been a decrease in the incare population, as more offenders are emplaced on community corrections.

“Over the years,  inmate admissions have also decreased as a result of upstream crime prevention efforts, as well as alternative sentencing options. All these have led to decreasing numbers of inmates engaged in work programmes.”

Last year, 4,748 inmates underwent YRSG's skill training programmes, which are aligned with Singapore's Skills Framework. This is a slight increase from the 4,717 inmates who underwent such training in 2020.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.