SINGAPORE - Fewer Malays are reoffending after they leave prison, Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Masagos Zulkifli revealed on Sunday (June 30) as he reflected on his first year in the position.
Mr Masagos - who is also Minister for the Environment and Water Resources - told Malay language newspaper Berita Harian that the two-year recidivism rate for Malay/Muslim offenders fell from 34.7 per cent for those released in 2011 to 28.9 per cent for those released in 2016.
He added that the two-year relapse rate for Malays undergoing drug supervision improved from 41.6 per cent for the 2011 release cohort to 27.8 for the 2016 one.
The number of Malay/Muslim volunteers who befriend and guide offenders has also increased, noted Mr Masagos, who took over the position of Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs from former minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim last year.
The number of Malay/Muslim volunteers conducting the Muslim Religious Programme and Services to inmates as of the end of May was close to 130 - double the number in 2015.
Mr Masagos said: "These improvements are also significant at the international level. Because recidivism rate among minorities is often high and sticky, many have accepted this as a given."
He said that the achievements are a result of the community here "being steadfast and rallying together to make a difference".
It also shows that when all parties work together - such as "Government, community organisations, grassroots agencies and committed individuals" - outstanding results can be achieved.
Overall, Mr Masagos said that the Malay community in Singapore has made "good progress over the years", calling it a "community of success".
Last Friday (June 28), it was revealed that over 40 per cent of all offenders released in 2013 returned to prison within five years.
Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam called the figure a "cause for concern", and while noting that Singapore's overall recidivism rate is better than many other countries, said there is room for improvement.
He was speaking at a seminar on aftercare efforts for ex-offenders.
Inmates who are released often find themselves without the social support needed to reintegrate into society, said Mr Shanmugam, and may also face family troubles as well as difficulty in finding jobs.