Jailbirds that stray again face extra time

SINGAPORE - A new system has been put in place to deter jailbirds who get released early from re-offending.

The Conditional Remission System (CRS) is expected to start later this year.

If prisoners re-offend after an early release, they will have to serve the remaining portion of their sentence, on top of the sentence for their new offence.

The new system may be timely as the recidivism rate, the rate of re-offence within two years of release, increased by about 4 per cent last year, compared to 2012.

The Singapore Prison Service released annual statistics yesterday, and pointed to the CRS as one way of strengthening the care of freed inmates.

The numbers showed that the bulk of inmates are drug offenders, and 80 per cent of re-offenders have a drug history.

Mr Freddy Wee, deputy director of drug-rehabilitation halfway house Breakthrough Missions, said that such a system will have only "a bit" of a deterrent effect. What is more important is that the inmate himself is determined to stay crime-free, he added.

Criminal lawyer Amolat Singh said: "The system will be most effective for non-drug offenders, and for first-time drug offenders, but hardcore offenders may be immune."

The inmate population in general, and those who enter every year, are becoming older.

There were 5,776 prisoners above the age of 41 last year, a 7.6 per cent increase from the 5,369 in 2012. Some of them have been behind bars for half their lives.

They are also generally better-educated, with the number of those with tertiary education and above creeping higher.

This is in line with Singapore's ageing and more literate population.

Figures showed that inmates and their families have been receiving increased support.

The number of volunteers for the Yellow Ribbon community project who help inmates and their families with issues such as finance and education has increased. These volunteers speak to both inmates and their families to ensure that inmates come out to a stable family, and with the will and means to start their lives anew.

More than 1,500 families were approached by volunteers last year, almost double the 811 in 2012.

And there are success stories. Ms Edna Tan, 52, a freelance teacher who has been a volunteer for about two years, helped a former inmate with four school-going daughters and a partially blind wife.

"After his release, he got a job as a sales manager...and one of his daughters qualified for a scholarship," she said.


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