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Five Questions with… A Captain of Lives
Rebuilding broken lives beyond the prison walls – Superintendent Dominic Fernandez shares how Community Corrections helps ex-offenders rehabilitate and reintegrate into society.

10 Apr 2018 SPS Dominic
SUPT Dominic has been involved in Community Corrections work for almost three years. PHOTO: Muhamad Khair

Trained as a Civil and Structural Engineer, Superintendent (SUPT) Dominic sought a vocation that involved rebuilding broken lives rather than constructing skyscrapers. That’s why he joined the Singapore Prison Service (SPS) 14 years ago.

As the Senior Assistant Director of Community Supervision & Rehabilitation at the Community Corrections Command (COMC), SUPT Dominic leads a team of over 50 uniformed officers and civilian rehabilitation specialists. Their work in the community helps offenders change their lives for the better. 

A strong proponent of second chances for ex-offenders, SUPT Dominic shares how the COMC contributes to a safe and secure Singapore. 

What is Community Corrections and why is it important?
Community Corrections is about extending prison work into the community. It involves facilitating an offender’s rehabilitation and reintegration in the community while minimising risks through effective supervision.
 
This is important as most offenders will eventually return to the community. Research has shown the effectiveness of rehabilitation in real-life settings, and that the post-release phase is the most critical part of the reintegration journey. 

This period is fraught with challenges and it’s when support is needed most. Hence, Community Corrections gives ex-offenders a better chance of staying crime- and drug-free. This reduces re-offending and leads to a safer Singapore. 
 
What’s the vision behind Community Corrections? 
Community Based Programmes (CBP) allows suitable offenders at the tail-end of their sentences to transition back to society under the supervision of SPS officers and aided by their families and our community partners such as the Community Action for the Rehabilitation of Ex-offenders (CARE) Network and the Halfway Houses. Completion rates for those on the CBP tend to have remained consistently high, and offenders emplaced on the CBP have better recidivism outcomes. 

10 Apr 2018 Dominic SPS 2
Part of SUPT Dominic’s work includes working closely with the ex-offenders to keep them on a path free from crime and drugs. PHOTO: Muhamad Khair

Share a work experience that changed you as a person.
Two ex-offenders truly inspired me when they were given the right opportunities to turn their lives around. 

Jay’s Story: It’s Never Too Late for Change 
Jay was convicted for cheating and criminal breach of trust. Prior to going to prison, he worked in a video production house. As I was helping Jay with his rehabilitation, he challenged me to channel the offenders’ energy and creativity into something useful. 

Together, we built a small, humble video production house within the prison. The outfit taught inmates basic video production and editing skills, and undertook projects for the department. After his release, Jay remained crime-free and completely turned his life around. He’s now married with two kids. 
 
Ram’s Story: It Takes a Village
Ram was a 19-year-old resident in the Community Rehabilitation Centre (CRC), having recently completed his detention. Most residents spend six months in the CRC before being emplaced on home leave for another six months. Ram, however, lacked family support. With divorced parents and a mostly absent father, he grew frustrated and would commit petty infringements in the CRC. He felt no one cared for him. 
 
All it took was one kind act from those around him to change Ram’s behaviour. This happened during his stay at the CRC while he was studying at the Institute of Technical Education. The staff at the CRC came together to give Ram clothes and shoes when they realised he didn’t have the appropriate attire for a school presentation. 

This simple act of giving was enough to show Ram that people did care for him, and his behaviour improved. Through the tireless efforts of the staff, Ram also rekindled ties with his father. 

How has the SPS’ approach to rehabilitation and reintegration changed over the years? 
Two legislative changes expanded the scale and scope of Community Corrections. The Criminal Procedure Code was amended in 2011 and this saw Community Based Sentencing (CBS) being introduced. CBS provides the Courts with sentencing options for low-risk offenders. 

One CBS option that SPS administers is the Day Reporting Order (DRO) for low-risk, first-time offenders. Offenders sentenced to DRO will undergo risk assessment and individualised case management that suits their needs. Each DRO typically ranges from three to 12 months. Offenders have to report regularly to the Day Reporting Centre located within the community to attend programmes, instead of serving their sentences in prison. 

In 2014, the Prisons Act was amended and the Mandatory Aftercare Scheme was introduced to provide structured support for high-risk offenders after they are released from prison. These offenders must receive structured, step-down aftercare support and supervision for up to two years. 

During this period, they can reside in a halfway house or be placed on home supervision with electronic monitoring. Some offenders also need to undergo counselling and regular urine tests. This extended Community Corrections beyond the offenders’ release date, helping them better reintegrate into the community. 
 
To better oversee and coordinate Community Corrections in the SPS, the COMC was formed in August 2014. Today, COMC is responsible for about 1,800 offenders in the community.

What’s the future of Community Corrections? 
We’ll likely see more offenders emplaced in the community on longer and more varied CBPs. Hence, we’ll need to do Community Corrections more effectively, efficiently and safely, in order to maintain the public’s trust. 

But we cannot do this alone. We’ll need to work closely within the Home Team and with our community partners; better leverage on technology to reduce re-offending rates; and do our part to keep Singapore safe and secure. 

What do you love about your role as a Captain of Lives?
The same thing that made me give up practicing engineering – my vocation allows me to touch and change lives. Not just the lives of offenders, but their families too. This has been the road less travelled. 
 

If you’re interested in becoming a Captain of Lives, find out more at the SPS Careers page.

© 2019 Ministry of Home Affairs, Singapore. All Rights Reserved.


  1. by Yuslina Aziz
  2. 10 April 2018
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