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Pre-release rehab for high-risk drug offenders

10-month programme improves their chances of reintegrating into society. -ST
Jalelah Abu Baker

Sat, Apr 06, 2013
The Straits Times

SINGAPORE - Serious drug offenders are being put through a 10-month rehabilitation programme to improve their chances of staying out of jail and reintegrating into society.

It was revealed on Tuesday that the prison authorities are sending long-term inmates who have been locked up at least three times for drug offences - and who pose the highest risk of relapse - on the course at a pre-release centre in Changi Prison Complex.

About 1,000 long-term drug offenders were due to be released each year between last year and next year.

The rehabilitation initiative was launched in April last year, Senior Minister of State for Home Affairs Masagos Zulkifli said at an Orchid Country Club event organised by the Singapore Prison Service and Singapore Corporation of Rehabilitative Enterprises (Score).

After a one-month orientation programme in which inmates learn the centre's rules and why they are there, they go through three three-month phases - rehabilitation, renew and restart.

During the first they are given motivation classes - some led by ex-offenders - and learn problem-solving and communication skills. Their cell walls will be covered with motivational posters.

The second concentrates on growth, with job trainers from the Prison Service and Score providing skills development training for work in the logistics, culinary, food and beverage, and warehouse industries.

Inmates will also get to practise their skills in a kitchen or warehouse setting.

In the final phase, they are matched to jobs and learn interview skills. Job interviews are then conducted at the centre.

By this stage, they will be given the privileges of a sink, folding table and cabinet in their cells. The inmates also organise their own futsal, basketball and scrabble competitions as well as their graduation ceremony.

The officer in charge of the pre-release centre, Assistant Superintendent of Prisons Martin Chew, said the rehab course involves counselling throughout and aims to re-establish family ties and confidence.

He added: "It was (set up) to develop a system where there is a flow through in-care all the way to after-care."

Over the 10 months, they get to see their families face to face, rather than behind a screen, for the first time in years.

"They can literally hug their children, hold their wives, and that itself is an emotional moment. Many of them break down and cry," ASP Chew said.

He added that the inmates have to declare their commitment to change to their family members.

There are now 296 inmates at the pre-release centre for drug offenders, all of whom will be put on the programme. The first batch graduated in February.

Correctional rehabilitation specialist Muzafar Muneer Mustafa, who works with inmates after they are released, said that those who come from the centre are more confident and have stronger family support.

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