Hardened drug addicts to get longer rehab

Drug Rehabilitation Centre inmates currently attend various configurations of programmes, which differ in intensity according to an inmate's individual risk and needs assessment.
Drug Rehabilitation Centre inmates currently attend various configurations of programmes, which differ in intensity according to an inmate's individual risk and needs assessment.ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

Changes to law will redirect such inmates from long-term imprisonment to intensive rehab

Hardened drug addicts will soon undergo longer and more intensive rehabilitation programmes at the Drug Rehabilitation Centre (DRC), following amendments to the law that open the way for them to undergo repeated rehabilitation rather than serve prison time.

The centre, which used to cater only to addicts caught consuming drugs for the first or second time, will prepare to take in more.

Under changes to the Misuse of Drugs Act, addicts who have been caught more than twice and admit to consuming drugs but do not face other criminal charges will report to the DRC.

They were previously sentenced to long-term imprisonment (LT). This means about one in two LT inmates will now be redirected to rehabilitation instead, said Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam in Parliament on Tuesday.

For now, these repeat drug offenders will undergo a longer and more intense version of the centre's current rehabilitation programmes, said Ms Lau Kuan Mei, assistant director of correctional rehabilitation services.

"But we will review these programmes regularly to see what the needs of the drug offenders here are, and then we will do our research and design them accordingly," said Ms Lau, speaking to the media during a tour of the rehabilitation centre last week.

It currently runs several intervention programmes, including a psychology-based correctional programme to address harmful drug-seeking thoughts, a family programme allowing inmates to build relationships with their families, and skills training to help inmates seek and retain employment.

EFFORT NEEDED FROM BOTH SIDES

We have the proper support to help them through this rehab and reintegration journey, but we also hope they are motivated to also help themselves. It goes both ways.

DEPUTY SUPERINTENDENT OF PRISONS 2 CHNG KUOK LEONG, who oversees officers.

Inmates attend various configurations of programmes, which differ in intensity according to an inmate's individual risk and needs assessment.

Such assessments are done when individuals first enter the DRC, and are based on how likely they are to re-offend and the degree of their dependence on drugs.

For example, inmates deemed to have a higher risk of relapsing would go through an integrated programme which targets all of their needs. Classes tackle their beliefs and attitudes which support drug use, and they are taught practical skills, such as how to manage their emotions, to help them steer clear of drugs.

Inmates with a lower risk of relapsing might in turn attend only classes that address specific skills they would require, like the assertiveness to say no to drugs, said Ms Lau.

 
 
 
 

The inmates typically go through sessions together in groups of 12, said Superintendent of Institution B5 Soh Yen Li. B5 is a drug rehabilitation centre within Changi Prison.

"As they move along in the same intervention programme, we also work with them on how to positively support one another in a communal setting," said Supt Soh, who noted the DRC would need more officers to work with the larger group of drug abusers coming in.

After their stint in the DRC, those who are deemed to be suitable will go to one of three different Community Based Programme schemes: home monitoring with an electronic tagging device, a day-release scheme from a community supervision centre, or a halfway house.

During this phase of rehabilitation, they are monitored by prisons officers who check in on them about once a month, said Deputy Superintendent of Prisons 2 Chng Kuok Leong, who oversees officers.

"We have the proper support to help them through this rehab and reintegration journey, but we also hope they are motivated to also help themselves. It goes both ways," said DSP Chng.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 17, 2019, with the headline 'Hardened drug addicts to get longer rehab'. Print Edition | Subscribe