Old habits die hard for more drug users

SINGAPORE - More than one in four drug abusers return to their old habits and get caught.

This, even as Singapore continues to record one of the lowest recidivism rates - involving people who commit an offence again within two years of their release from prison - in the world for criminal offenders.

Statistics released by the Singapore Prison Service yesterday show that inmates released from Drug Rehabilitation Centres (DRC) in 2010 have a recidivism rate of 27.5 per cent.

Although this was lower than the 30.5 per cent recorded in 2008's release cohort, it is still higher than the 27.1 per cent in 2009's.

The number of drug abusers admitted to DRCs also more than doubled from 688 in 2010 to 1,384 last year. Many of these drug offenders are from younger age groups.

For instance, the number of admissions to DRCs for those aged between 21 and 30 went up from 510 in 2011 to 556 last year.

The total population in these centres has also increased significantly - from 765 in 2010 to 1,503 last year - amid a worsening drug situation here and in the region.

There was, however, a slight dip in the number of drug offenders below the age of 21 who were sent to DRCs in 2012.

Some 142 of them were admitted last year, after figures spiked from 69 in 2010 to 150 in 2011, raising concerns over what was seen as a serious shift in the mindset of the young towards recreational drugs.

The overall recidivism rate, however, was down for the second year running.

Some 23.6 per cent, or fewer than one in four prisoners, released in 2010 re-offended after they served time behind bars, compared to 26.7 per cent and 27.3 per cent of those released in 2009 and 2008 respectively.

Singapore Anti-Narcotics Association executive director Lim Poh Quee said the latest figures are the result of a better approach in the rehabilitation of ex-offenders.

"There is a broader and stronger programme in place, which has addressed the needs of the ex-offenders," he said.

More ex-offenders have also secured jobs prior to their release from prison in recent years.

Last year, 1,708 inmates found jobs, up from 1,586 in 2011 and 1,172 in 2010. This, after more inmates were placed on employability skills training, which includes programmes in food preparation and logistics operations.

There were also more employers registering with the Singapore Corporation of Rehabilitative Enterprises to offer employment to ex-offenders last year.

Singapore Prison Service director for rehabilitation and reintegration Terrence Goh said the lower recidivism rate is an encouragement to the various agencies and community partners.

"This journey towards achieving lower re-offending rates requires more volunteers and potential employers to step forward."

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