SINGAPORE - Befrienders can be better trained and equipped to help former drug offenders by covering their "blind spots" and steering them away from re-addiction.
This is a key part of efforts to rehabilitate former offenders and reintegrate them into society, a process that requires family and community support as well, Minister of State for Home Affairs Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim said on Monday (June 7).
"A single thought can trigger you back to drug addiction," he noted in an interview with radio station Money FM 89.3. "Whenever someone thinks of going back into addiction, there (should) always be someone that they can fall on to get help."
Associate Professor Faishal, who is also Minister of State for National Development, said it is important that this help comes from those with links to the Government and its partner agencies, with the aim of forming tight and close-knit support networks.
He cited the Community Action for the Rehabilitation of Ex-offenders (Care) Network, which was set up in 2000 and comprises a mix of government agencies and more than 100 community partners.
One such partner is the Family and Inmates Through-care Assistance Haven (Fitrah), which was launched by the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore in 2019. Fitrah has recruited nearly 200 befrienders, who visit the families of former offenders and inmates to connect them with available social assistance programmes.
On providing former offenders with the best possible rehabilitation process, Prof Faishal said: "It will be a long journey, and I must say it's not easy. I hope more community partners will join us in providing a supportive environment for ex-offenders who are reintegrating into society."
In March, during a budget debate in Parliament, he had also highlighted plans by Yellow Ribbon Singapore - previously known as the Singapore Corporation of Rehabilitative Enterprises - to help make former offenders more employable, for example, by offering work, study and continual training arrangements after their release.
On Monday, Prof Faishal stressed the need to give former offenders a second chance.
People are not perfect, and have weaknesses and make mistakes that may land them in prison, he said.
Still, "we want them to do well in life… They, like us, want to have a good life".
Prof Faishal said former offenders must also do their part to win the trust of a community seeking to give them opportunities.
"The Government's commitment is that we will continue to help our ex-offenders and their families," he said.
"At the same time, we will also want to move upstream, so that there'll be less offending behaviour, less of young people taking drugs; so that they don't have to go into prison, and they can have better lives with their families and friends."