The Prisons (Amendment) Bill was introduced for First Reading at the Parliamentary Sitting on 11 November 2013. The Bill seeks to implement the new Conditional Remission System (CRS) and Mandatory Aftercare Scheme (MAS). This follows the announcement made by Senior Minister of State for Home Affairs and Foreign Affairs, Mr. Masagos Zulkifli, during the Ministry of Home Affairs’ Committee of Supply Debate 2013 that the Prisons Act would be amended to implement these initiatives. The Bill incorporates inputs and suggestions from consultations with stakeholders, including the public (via REACH), Prisons’ community partners, Prisons’ Board of Visiting Justices and Board of Visitors, and the legal fraternity, over a period of 4 months from July to October 2013.
2. The recidivism rate for released inmates has decreased from about 40% for the 2000 release cohort to 23.6% for the 2010 release cohort. Although fewer ex-inmates are returning to prison, many who do so are repeat offenders. Repeat offenders comprise more than 80% of the prison population, and many of them have drug antecedents.
3. To help ex-inmates break the cycle of re-offending, strengthen aftercare support and improve the rehabilitation of ex-inmates into society, the Singapore Prisons Service will be implementing the CRS and MAS. The amendments to the Prisons Act will give effect to these two initiatives. The CRS and MAS are similar to conditional release/parole, supervision and after-care systems that have been implemented in other jurisdictions such as Canada and Hong Kong.
Conditional Remission System (CRS)
4. Currently, most inmates are granted one-third remission for good conduct and behaviour in prison. They are released from prison after serving two-thirds of their sentence, if they have not committed any breach of prison discipline. There are no conditions imposed upon their release. This has been the practice since the mid-1950s when Singapore was a British colony. In comparison, many jurisdictions have conditional release/parole systems that impose conditions, including not re-offending, on inmates during the period of remission.
5. Under the CRS, inmates will continue to be granted one-third remission for good conduct and behaviour. They will continue to be released at the two-thirds mark. In addition, inmates will be issued with a Conditional Remission Order when they are released. This Order will be valid until the end of their sentence (i.e. the remission period).
6. To deter ex-inmates from re-offending, the Order will subject them to a basic condition that they should not be convicted of another offence committed during the remission period and be sentenced to imprisonment for that offence. If they do so, the courts will be empowered to sentence the ex-inmate for breaching the basic condition, with an imprisonment term capped at the remaining portion of the remission period. This is in addition to the sentence for the new offence committed.
Mandatory Aftercare Scheme (MAS)
7. In addition to the CRS, ex-inmates who need more support in re-integration will be placed on a Mandatory Aftercare Scheme (MAS) for up to 2 years, upon release at the two-thirds mark of their sentence.
8. The MAS is a structured aftercare regime which provides enhanced community support, counselling and case management, as well as tighter supervision for ex-inmates. This is part of a broader through-care system to facilitate the reintegration of an ex-inmate into society through progressive step-down arrangements. For example, the ex-inmate may be placed in a halfway house immediately upon release from prisons. After a period of time in the halfway house, he may be placed on home supervision and subsequently, on community reintegration. This complements the rehabilitation programmes he receives while in prison.
9. Ex-inmates on the MAS will be closely supervised with restrictions such as curfew hours and electronic monitoring. As part of their rehabilitation programme, they will also undergo counselling and case management.
10. Inmates convicted of (i) drug offences, (ii) property offences and who have drug antecedents, (iii) serious crimes, and (iv) inmates with sentences of more than 15 years, will be placed on the MAS.
11. The CRS and MAS will apply to those who commit offences after the legislative amendments come into effect.
12. Together, the CRS and MAS will strengthen Prisons’ system of through-care by providing structured arrangements for ex-inmates in the period immediately after their release. In doing so, both initiatives seek to augment current programmes to reduce offending and re-offending and improve the rehabilitation and reintegration of ex-inmates into society.
13. Mr Masagos Zulkifli, Senior Minister of State for Home Affairs, said:
“We want to help ex-offenders in our society break the cycle of re-offending and come together as a community to help them rebuild their lives. The CRS and MAS were developed in consultation with key stakeholders, and will provide structure and support to ex-offenders in the period after their release when they are most vulnerable. Many other jurisdictions also impose conditions on inmates upon their release during the remission period. We will work closely with the community to support the rehabilitation and reintegration of ex-offenders into society. However, it is ultimately the responsibility of the individual not to re-offend. If he does, he will be dealt with swiftly and strictly by the law.”
Ministry of Home Affairs