Prison population falls to six-year low

Prison population falls to six-year low

The number of prisoners in Singapore's jails has shrunk to a six-year low, latest prison statistics released yesterday show.

There were 9,754 people in jail at the end of last year, nearly 14 per cent fewer than the 11,288 at the end of 2009.

Of the 9,754, fewer than one in nine were women.

There has also been a gradual drop in the number of people being sent to prison each year. For the whole of last year, 11,595 people were jailed, against 17,330 in 2009.

But the figures also show a small rise in recidivism - close to three in 10 inmates returned to crime within two years of their release. Of those released in 2012, 27.5 per cent returned to jail, the highest proportion since 2003. It was 27 per cent for the 2011 batch and 23.3 per cent for those released in 2010.

Still Singapore's recidivism rate is on the low side compared to other countries. For instance, the rate for those released in New Zealand in 2011 and went back to crime is 36.8 per cent. It is much higher in the United States.

The inmate population at the Drug Rehabilitation Centre (DRC) has also gone down.

There were 1,400 inmates at the centre at the end of last year, with 254 of them female. For 2013, there was 1,617 inmates at the centre, which is located within Changi Prison Complex.

New admissions over the whole of last year also fell - to 1,139, from 1,364 the year before. Promisingly, fewer people were going back to drugs after being released. The DRC's recidivism rate fell from 31.1 per cent in 2011 to 28.3 per cent for the 2012 batch.

Singapore Anti-Narcotics Association chief executive Abdul Karim said the decline in the DRC recidivism rate is encouraging. "Over the last few years there has been a lot more emphasis on strengthening the after-care programme, which is critical because former inmates face a lot of challenges outside and need support to help them change."

The Singapore Prison Service (SPS) said it will continue to focus on reducing the recidivism rate, but added that it was important for the public to play its part in accepting former offenders.

Ms Lee Kwai Sem, director of SPS' rehabilitation and reintegration division, said: "The public's support is critical in their reintegration journey. However, the ex-offender himself must also be motivated to change."

Part of the rehabilitative process includes helping prisoners find jobs on their release, for instance through the Singapore Corporation of Rehabilitative Enterprises (Score). More employers, from various industries including manufacturing and hospitality, have been willing to give former prisoners a second chance.

Last year, about 4,400 employers registered with Score to provide job opportunities for former inmates, up from 3,780 in 2012.

amirh@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on Jan 24, 2015.
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