Ex-prisoners to get more help in rejoining society

Ex-prisoners to get more help in rejoining society
Offenders will be given more help with the essential skills needed to adjust to life after they are released from prison.

Offenders released from prison are to be given more help with the essential skills needed to adjust to life on the outside - and avoid the trap of re-offending.

More training is being offered to both volunteers and professionals involved in helping ex-offenders make the transition, said Senior Minister of State for Home Affairs Masagos Zulkifli yesterday.

He was speaking at the second Community Action for the Rehabilitation of Ex-offenders (Care) Network's workplan seminar.

He said more could be done to reduce the level of re-offending.

He said up to 1,000 training slots will be offered this year in more specialised areas such as "motivational interviewing in the prison context and working with families and children of offenders".

The Singapore Prison Service offers a structured training framework for personnel involved in offender-related work, known as the Development Framework for Offender Rehabilitation Personnel (Dorp).

It aims to equip volunteers and aftercare professionals with the relevant skills and qualifications for their work.

Singapore Prison Service is one of eight core members of the Care Network, which works with more than 100 partners to rehabilitate ex-prisoners. Since Care Network was formed in 2000, the number of volunteers has grown from about 200 to more than 1,600 in 2013, said Mr Masagos.

To date, all 1,600 volunteers have gone through basic training.

Dorp, launched in January this year, has had 339 volunteers and professionals trained in a total of 13 courses. It aims to train up to 1,000 personnel by the end of the year.

Mr Alvin Tan, 39, programme manager at Green Haven halfway house, lauded the plan for more specialised training. He said: "We are working with humans, not machines. We need to have a bag full of tools and skills to work with different individuals."

Last year, 13,944 inmates were released from prison. About one in four falls back to crime after their release.

Repeat offenders remain a concern, even though recidivism rates have been generally stable over the years, said Mr Masagos.

"They comprise more than 80 per cent of the prison population. Many are drug offenders or have drug antecedents. Repeat offenders are also more likely to re-offend and spend a longer time behind bars," he added.

The Conditional Remission System and Mandatory Aftercare Scheme, to be launched later this year, will subject ex-inmates to certain conditions upon their release after serving two-thirds of their sentence, something that is not done currently, said Mr Masagos.

joycel@sph.com.sg

This article was published on April 29 in The Straits Times.

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