26 Mar 2002

The Prisons Workplan Seminar 2002 at NUS Cultural Centre - Speech by Mr Wong Kan Seng, Minister for Home Affairs, 26 March 02

Director Prisons,

Officers of the Prisons Department,

Ladies and Gentlemen.

2 Prisons Department, as part of the Home Team, plays an important role to ensure the safety and security of our homeland. You have carried out your mission and vision as the Captain of Lives well, recognising that it is much better for the long-term protection and good of society, if more offenders are changed to become responsible and contributing citizens. This is the right approach, and I urge you to carry on the good work you have done in changing lives for the better.

Framework for Action,

3 Since 1999, when the Departments vision was drawn up, you have introduced many initiatives under your strategic framework to make this a reality. Initiatives like the classification of offenders, the Housing Unit Management System and the Prisons School are successful and have received positive feedback from the public. For example, students at the Prisons School have done well in last years O Level and A Level Examination. 93 per cent of the cohort achieved at least one O Level pass. This is about 17 per cent higher than the national average for private candidates. 73 per cent of the inmates also attained 3 or more O Level passes. Moreover, about 88 per cent of the inmates taking the GCE A Level Examination last year achieved a minimum of one A Level pass. This is about 50 per cent higher than the national average for private candidates and an improvement of more than 40 per cent from year 2000 results. Inmates have made good use of their time in the Prisons School to improve their education.

4 At last years Workplan Seminar, you realised that a conducive organisational culture was essential to achieve your vision, and focused your attention on organisational transformation. The result of your deliberations was the Framework for Action.

5. Comprising initiatives such as the Competency-based Performance Management System and a Coaching Framework, the attributes and skills required of a prison officer are now clearly defined, and officers can exercise a positive influence on their fellow colleagues. This will no doubt enable Prisons to attain a higher level of professionalism and equip its officers with the competency to be Captains of Lives.

6. I am pleased to note that the Prisons Department has reorganised its PS 21 structure in order to develop an even stronger innovation culture. You have also achieved the Singapore Quality Class, and are now working towards the Singapore Quality Award, as well as the People Developer Standard and ISO 9001. This would require your commitment and hard work. Do your best to help your Department achieve these targets.

Working with the Community CARE Network,

7. Your vision is ambitious. You will not be able to achieve it purely on your own. I am glad that you recognise this and are actively seeking the support of the community.

8. A good example of your co-operation with the community is the Community Action for Rehabilitation of Ex-offenders or the CARE Network, formally launched in January this year. Incorporating resources from seven member agencies, the Network has done much to offer seamless through care for offenders from the time they enter prison until they return to society.

9. The CARE Network will soon be linked up with five Community Development Councils or CDC under the Community Safety and Security Programme. This arrangement will help the Network tap on the resources and structure of the CDCs to help offenders re-integrate into society after their release.

Second Chance for Ex-offenders

10. The Prisons Department has tried hard to persuade our society to give a second chance to deserving ex-offenders. Your efforts are commendable and are receiving positive reaction from the public. A recent publicity blitz that challenges prevailing public assumptions about ex-offenders has been well received. A survey has shown that the public perception of the prison service and ex-offenders has improved significantly after the publicity campaign. This will help attract more community groups, volunteers and recruits to assist you in your quest to change lives for the better.

11 Prisons Department has led by example, by employing three ex-offenders. With the gradual change in perception, I hope that the public and private sectors will follow this example and not discriminate against ex-offenders in their employment practices.

.Home Detention The Next Stage

12. I understand that the Prisons Department is currently revising its criteria for emplacement onto its existing Home Detention Scheme. First implemented in April 2000 to allow suitable offenders to serve their sentences at home, this scheme has reaped tremendous success. As of February this year, 910 out of 912 inmates have successfully completed this scheme. This represents a success rate of almost 100 per cent.

13. Now, Prisons will be moving another step forward, to study the feasibility of introducing a Front-End Home Detention scheme, where suitable offenders can be put on Home Detention immediately without spending time in prison. In this way, ties between the offender and his family can be maintained, and he can continue to be gainfully employed.

14. There are many other initiatives which the Department has launched to mobilize community support. These include training workshops conducted by the Rotaract Club, and the Play and Wait Programme run by the Salvation Army and Mendaki. You should continue your good work in getting the community involved in your difficult task of changing lives. I also hope to see more members of our society stepping up to offer their time, effort and resources in this worthwhile endeavor.

Challenges ahead

15 Safety and security should never be taken for granted. Challenges remain on how to manage prisoners so that those who repent and want to turn over a new leaf can do so after paying their dues. A spectrum of penalties is evolving so that punishment is better calibrated to the specific offence. The work continues. We do not want offenders to merely do time in jail. But if they do and sincerely want to turn over a new leaf, we and our community partners will want to try to help them re-integrate into society.

16 It remains for me to wish you a fruitful time of reflection and dialogue, as you draw up your plans to meet the challenges of the future. It is my pleasure to declare the Prisons Workplan Seminar open.
Last Updated on 26 Feb 2015
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