Housing young offender

Housing young offender

SINGAPORE - Young male drug offenders now have a dedicated centre to help them kick their addictive habits while carrying on with school or work outside.

The Community Rehabilitation Centre (CRC), which provides a structured living environment for youths aged 16 to 20, also teaches residents to reject negative peer influence.

The centre was officially launched by Senior Minister of State for Home Affairs and Foreign Affairs Masagos Zulkifli yesterday.

The facility in Jamaica Road, which opened last May, is the first housing unit for young male inmates located away from Changi Prison Complex.

It can house up to 50 first-time drug offenders who have completed a short stint at the Drug Rehabilitation Centre.

The CRC was a recommendation of a task force on drugs formed in October 2011, as a step-down arrangement for young, first-time offenders.

To tackle the growing problem of drug use among Singapore youth, a multi-agency task force was also formed to study the issue last November.

In the decade preceding 2013, the number of arrested drug abusers under 20 rose by an average of 7 per cent a year. For those aged between 20 and 29, the figure was 11 per cent.

While latest Central Narcotics Bureau data released yesterday shows that the number of abusers below 30 who were arrested last year was about the same as in 2013, two-thirds of new drug abusers were under 30.

Mr Masagos, who co-chairs the task force, said: "It is an ongoing challenge to keep our young people away from drugs amid more liberal attitudes towards drugs."

One former CRC resident who has completed his six-month residential phase and is now on six-month home leave, said the centre's programmes made him resolve not to return to drugs.

The 19-year-old, who only wanted to be known as "Ree", recounted how a role-playing exercise showed him how a drug abuser became unresponsive to the outside world.

He said: "We would criticise him: 'You're no use to society', not (initially) realising that we're referring to ourselves. It made us realise that society looks at us like that."

amirh@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on Jan 27, 2015.
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