Director of Prisons, Mr Soh Wai Wah,
Home Team Colleagues and Partners,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am happy to be here today to officiate at the opening of the second major cluster of prisons within the Changi Prison Complex. This marks a significant phase in Prisons’ overall masterplan to modernise and centralise our prisons in Singapore.
2. This masterplan was conceptualised in 2000. The first cluster, what we now call Cluster A, was officially opened in August 2004. The development of the second phase – Cluster B – which we see here youth-at-risk today, began in end 2005 and was completed last year.
3. The clustering of our prisons allows us to reap much synergies. These include the benefit of economies of scale from aggregation of common resources and also efficiencies from centralisation of services. It also enabled us to make better use of the land previously occupied by the older prisons.
4. However, even as we modernise our prisons, the mission and philosophy of the prison department remains unchanged. First and foremost, it must ensure the safe and secure custody of inmates under its charge. Secondly, it should seek to reduce re-offending by effective rehabilitation of inmates so as to re-integrate them into society after their release from prison.
5. Hence, our prisons implement a deterrent and disciplined regime. Living conditions in prison are simple and inmates are provided with basic needs. Discipline and order are key to a prison because their erosion can lead to dire consequences like prison riots as well as undermine the efficacy of rehabilitation efforts. Within such a disciplined and regulated regime, inmates are provided with rehabilitation opportunities, such as skills training, education and counselling to prevent re-offending. Inmates need to seize these opportunities and not make light the second chance given to them.
Community Based Sentences
6. We recognise however, that even as imprisonment punishes the offender who has committed a crime, it often also brings about hardship to the families of offenders, especially their children. Imprisonment is also not always the most appropriate solution for all cases. We have therefore explored alternative community-based options. Hence, where first-time offenders have committed non-serious crimes and do not pose a threat to public safety, community-based sentences may be more appropriate. Offenders who have committed serious offences and are recalcitrant should, however, not be eligible for such community sentences so that public safety is not compromised.
7. MHA and MinLaw have been working closely with various ministries, AGC and Subordinate Courts to implement new sentencing options this year through amendments to the Criminal Procedure Code. These include Mandatory Treatment Orders, Day Reporting Orders, Community Service Orders and Short Detention Orders.
8. MOH and IMH have been identified to implement the Mandatory Treatment Orders to require an offender to undergo psychiatric treatment of up to 2 years, in lieu of imprisonment.
9. Prisons will implement the Short Detention Orders and the Day Reporting Orders. A Short Detention Order will give first time low-risk offenders a short experience of the rigors of detention for up to 14 days. The Day Reporting Order will require the offender to report regularly to a Reporting Centre managed by Prisons, undergo programmes and be electronically tagged, where necessary, for up to 12 months.
10. The Community Service Order, currently administered by MCYS as a condition for probationers and a sentence for juveniles, will be expanded as standalone sentencing option to allow adult offenders to make reparation to the community while being punished for their misdeeds.
11. The proposed new sentencing options which I have briefly shared will enhance the Courts’ flexibility to mete out an appropriate sentence from a wider range of sentencing options that can adequately punish, deter and rehabilitate, without compromising on public safety and our tough stance towards crime. To derive maximum benefit, they are not mutually exclusive and more than one may be imposed on an offender. For example, an offender given a Mandatory Treatment Order can be required under a Day Reporting Order to report regularly, at which time, counselling can be rendered and his condition monitored.
Role of the Community Partners
12. Rehabilitation, however, does not start and end in prison. The offender will return to society after his release. There should, therefore, be a network of community-based organisations, ready to support and help the ex-offender when he is no longer under any formal supervision. Indeed, rehabilitation is an area where Prisons cannot do it alone. The community plays a critical role in helping the ex-offender stay crime free.
13. In this regard, Prisons has benefited invaluably from the support, commitment and dedication of volunteers, both individuals and organisations. With their help, the Prisons’ recidivism rate has fallen to about 25 percent for the cohort released in 2006, from a high of 44 percent for the cohort released in 1998. This means that three in four of the offenders do not return to Prisons after their release, tracked over a 2-year period. Such positive and encouraging results are made possible because of the support from employers, families, voluntary welfare organisations and the community in general. I would like to take this opportunity to express my appreciation to the volunteers and sponsors who have faithfully volunteered their services and provided sponsorship to help offenders reintegrate back to the community.
14. Going forward, as we upgrade and build new rehabilitation capabilities in prison and improve our programmes for higher risk groups, Prisons will also share its experience and knowledge with its community partners, providing relevant training where necessary, so as to enhance the capability and capacity of aftercare support systems in the community.
15. And while we enhance these community support structures to prevent re-offending, we should also consider looking further upstream and see what we can do together to address the needs of youth-at-risk. We need to take a holistic view and see how we can prevent such youths from taking the wrong road to delinquency and crime.
16. There are clearly many challenges ahead. With the operationalisation of the second cluster, the Singapore Prison Service will be better placed to perform its core duties to achieve its desired outcomes of safe custody and rehabilitation of offenders. Prisons cannot do this alone and will work with other agencies in Government as well as the community partners to not only better recover the lives of our inmates but also to prevent those at risk, especially our youth, from taking the road that leads them to prison.
17. It is my pleasure now to declare our second cluster, Cluster B, open.