Parliamentary Speeches

Committee of Supply Debate 2024 on “Transforming Corrections, Countering Drugs” - Speech by Speech by Assoc Prof Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim, Minister of State, Ministry of Home Affairs & Ministry of National Development

Published: 29 February 2024

1. Mr Chairman, Singapore’s safety and security have been achieved in large part, by us staying united and protecting our social cohesion.

Israel-Hamas Conflict

2. There are many conflicts around the world. Most recently, the war in Gaza.
3. Many in Singapore have been following the developments in Gaza closely.
4. What we have seen has been disturbing: tens of thousands dead, towns completely destroyed. We feel deeply for the many innocent lives lost, and hope to see the end of suffering in Gaza soon.

5. Mr Vikram Nair asked how our different communities have reacted to the conflict. How the different communities react would vary according to how they identify with the affected groups in the conflict. This is natural. For example, the Muslim community has shown great concern over the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, but there are also many non-Muslim Singaporeans who are also moved when they see and read about the suffering of the people in Gaza. In particular, when they see young innocent children living in poor conditions, being injured, or even losing their lives. It tugs at the heartstrings of all of us. 

6. Mr Vikram Nair, Ms Usha Chandradas, Assoc Prof Razwana Begum, and Mr Zhulkarnain Abdul Rahim asked what Singaporeans can do to help those affected in the ongoing conflict, and how Singaporeans can express their views while preserving social cohesion.

7. There are channels for these views to be shared and heard. My colleagues and I have been engaging different groups, in many dialogues. We will continue to do so.

8. There are also channels for Singaporeans to provide humanitarian assistance. The Government has supported several public fundraising events. We started one in Nee Soon. Many Members of this House, including the opposition, have done the same.

9. If Singaporeans have other constructive ideas on how we can help those affected, the Government will support them. 

10. At the same time, I urge all Singaporeans to be cautious about what you see and hear online. Mr Zhulkarnain asked about the national security outlook, in light of the increased risk of foreign influence and global uncertainty. 

11. There are actors on different sides, manipulating social media posts, to win people over to their own position. Such activities are dangerous, and I urge everyone to be discerning in looking at the facts, and try to understand the complex backdrop against which the current crisis is taking place. 

12. It is challenging, as the conflict has deep roots, with a long history spanning decades or centuries, depending on when you consider the starting point to be. But it is important, as it affects how we respond, both to the situation, and to others who might hold different views. We must not let external events divide us, and damage our harmony.

Correctional Rehabilitation in Singapore

13. I will now move on to how the Home Team ensures safety and security in Singapore. A key component of our strategy is to minimise re-offending. 

14. In this regard, our rehabilitation approach has been effective. We have halved the two-year recidivism rate between the 2000s and 2020s, from 40% then to around 20% today. 

15. The Singapore Prison Service (Prisons) and Yellow Ribbon Singapore (YRSG) have been driving efforts to achieve this. They have equipped inmates with skills to get better jobs, and helped them manage the challenges of re-entering the workforce. 

16. Prisons has also mobilised community partners to help ex-offenders reintegrate into the society.

17. This is in line with one of the themes in the ForwardSG exercise – on doing more to empower those in need, to uplift themselves and their family. 

Existing Rehabilitation and Reintegration Efforts

18. Mr Patrick Tay and Mr Zhulkarnain asked about support for ex-offenders and desistors, those who have stayed clear of crime and drugs after release. Assoc Prof Razwana asked about strategies to incorporate desistance theory into rehabilitation and reintegration programmes. 

19. Prisons recognises that desistance requires an ecosystem of community support. 

20. Ex-offenders need encouragement to forge pro-social networks and make lifestyle changes, to stay on the straight and narrow path. Hence, last year, Prisons launched the Desistor Network to strengthen the community of social agencies that support desistors, and to create opportunities for desistors to support each other. Over 70 agencies are onboard, and Prisons is developing a guide of best practices to help desistors form pro-social support groups. 

21. Assoc Prof Razwana also asked about strategies to integrate trauma-informed care into rehabilitation programmes. 

22. Prisons recently incorporated trauma-informed practices in their psychology-based correctional programmes for female inmates. 

23. Female inmates who may have experienced trauma will be equipped to regulate their emotions better, to cope with the trauma. 

Upcoming Rehabilitation and Reintegration Efforts – Corrections 2030

24. Building on existing efforts, I am pleased to announce that Prisons will embark on another major transformation initiative this year – Corrections 2030. Corrections 2030 is anchored on three key strategies.

25. The first is to strengthen the families of inmates, to reduce inter-generational offending. 

26. Assoc Prof Razwana asked about the use of restorative justice in rehabilitation programmes. Prisons applies restorative practices to help inmates understand the impact of their actions and how they can make amends. This has been one of Prisons’ strategies to curb violence amongst inmates. Prisons will expand the use of restorative practices to help inmates reflect on their role in their family, and rebuild their relationship with the family. 

27. Since 2020, Prisons has been working with MSF and Family Service Centres to support inmates’ families. To date, Prisons has referred more than 900 families for assistance. 

28. Prisons has also started referring families to self-help groups and other community partners.

29. From April 2024, inmates and their families who require marriage support will also be referred to Strengthening Families Programme@Family Service Centre (Fam@FSC) for counselling.

30. The second strategy is to maximise the employability and career opportunities of ex-offenders. Gainful employment raises self-esteem and provides financial stability, thus reducing re-offending risks.

31. Under the TAP & Grow initiative, YRSG set up academies in prison to equip inmates with in-demand industry skills. 

32. To date, YRSG has worked with partners across the precision engineering, media, logistics, and food services sectors. More than 1,500 inmates have benefitted. 

33. To complement TAP & Grow, YRSG introduced the YR Sandbox to explore opportunities for ex-offenders in emerging and fast-growing sectors such as the environmental sector, with opportunities for training in the community. I am pleased to share that in 2024, YRSG will expand YR Sandbox to the hospitality and tourism sectors.

34. Getting employers onboard is also important. Even as YRSG continues to champion inclusive hiring, it has moved beyond merely securing jobs for ex-offenders.

35. Under ‘Project Beyond Hiring’, YRSG equips workplace supervisors with skills to support and empower ex-offenders under their employment. This year, YRSG will expand this to more employers across industries such as logistics and hospitality.

36. The third strategy is to mobilise community partners to better support rehabilitation and reintegration. The five-year recidivism rate is currently at its lowest ever – 36.8% for the 2018 release cohort. This improved long-term desistance is likely due to the strong pro-social support ex-offenders receive. Efforts by volunteers and partners in the community complement Prisons’ rehabilitation efforts. 

37. Prisons has been providing basic corrections-related training for volunteers and community partners who work with inmates, ex-offenders, and their families.

38. I am glad to announce that Prisons will make such training more effective through a revised Development Framework for Offender Rehabilitation Personnel. Under this framework, Prisons will equip volunteers with specific competencies needed for their work, such as grief and trauma management. 

39. This year marks the Yellow Ribbon Project’s 20th anniversary. To commemorate this, we want to encourage community partners and ex-offenders to advocate for second chances more actively. 

40. For instance, ex-offenders will be involved in “Moving HeARTs in the city”, an art exhibition in a roving truck, and will conduct workshops and perform music to raise awareness of the Yellow Ribbon Project.  

41. Mr Patrick Tay asked for a review of the Registration of Criminals Act to further support ex-offenders. 

42. MHA periodically reviews the spent regime for criminal records. In our last review in 2021, we found the current regime appropriate for facilitating the reintegration of ex-offenders, in particular those who committed minor crimes. 

43. Besides the spent regime, there are other initiatives that support reintegration, including those under Corrections 2030 which I shared earlier.

44. Rehabilitation is a key priority for MHA. It embodies the spirit of ForwardSG: where we seek to temper unequal outcomes, uplift those in need, and prevent them from being trapped in a vicious cycle. 

Role of Malay-Muslim Organisations

45. I will now speak in Malay on the role of Malay Muslim Organisations (“MMOs”) in our rehabilitation efforts.

46. MMO adalah penting buat ekosistem sokongan bagi para banduan dan bekas pesalah Melayu Islam.

47. Mereka merupakan rakan kongsi utama kita yang menjalankan program-program nuansa budaya dan telah memainkan peranan yang besar dalam mengurangkan kadar residivisme dua tahun bagi pesalah Melayu daripada kira-kira 34 peratus kepada 26 peratus pada dekad yang lalu.

48. Rangkaian Pemulihan Badan Melayu Islam ditubuhkan untuk membantu MMO bekerjasama dengan lebih baik dan memanfaatkan kepakaran yang lain. MMO telah mencapai kemajuan dalam menyokong usaha pemulihan.

49. Majlis Jawatankuasa Eksekutif Kegiatan Melayu Persatuan Rakyat, atau MESRA, memperkenalkan kursus-kursus seperti literasi kewangan kepada penghuni di rumah peralihan Pertapis, Jamiyah dan Rise Above untuk membantu mereka menguruskan kehidupan mereka dengan lebih baik semasa mereka kembali berintegrasi dalam masyarakat. Lebih daripada 150 penghuni telah  memanfaatkannya.

50. Sesetengah MMO telah menubuhkan sistem rujukan di kalangan mereka. Contohnya, FITRAH merujukkan kes-kes bagi bantuan pendidikan kepada Mendaki. Langkah ini telah membantu benefisiari yang mungkin tidak tahu mana untuk mendapatkan bantuan bagi isu-isu tertentu.

51. Kami akan terus mengukuhkan Rangkaian ini. Pada bulan lalu, MHA telah menganjurkan Persidangan Rangkaian Pemulihan MMO buat julung-julung kalinya untuk menggalakkan kolaborasi yang lebih besar antara MMO.

52. Encik Syed Harun Alhabsyi bercakap tentang kepentingan kerjasama masyarakat dalam mencegah penyalahgunaan dadah. 

53. Kita bersetuju dan akan terus bekerjasama dengan masyarakat dalam pendidikan pencegahan dadah (PDE). 

54. Sehingga kini, CNB telah bekerjasama dengan banyak MMO untuk menganjurkan lebih daripada 140 acara di bawah kempen Dadah Itu Haram, untuk menggalakkan masyarakat Melayu Islam agar menjalani hidup bebas daripada dadah. 

55. CNB akan melengkapkan masjid dengan sumber-sumber untuk menganjurkan inisiatif bebas dadah mereka sendiri dan mengembangkan lagi PDE.

Taking Action against Drug Abuse

56. Sir, the Minister spoke earlier about how we are addressing the youth drug problem. 

57. I will speak on:

a. Firstly, how we are improving support for drug abusers undergoing rehabilitation; and

b. Secondly, enforcement against drug activities.

Improving the Drug Rehabilitation and Reintegration Journey

58. Mr Christopher de Souza, Mr Keith Chua, and Mr Syed Harun Alhabsyi asked about efforts at treating drug abusers and preventing recidivism, including through community intervention. 

59. Prisons will continue to partner community organisations to offer pro-social support to abusers in the Drug Rehabilitation Centre (DRC) before they are emplaced on community rehabilitation programmes. Prisons will work with organisations such as the Singapore Anti-Narcotics Association, and religious organisations under the Desistor Network to invite desistors to share their experiences and motivate abusers through support groups.

60. As repeat abusers have more complex needs, Prisons has enhanced its psychology-based correctional programmes based on desistance and addictions studies. 

61. These programmes help abusers in the DRC better recognise their drug triggers and strengthen their resolve to resist drugs and pursue pro-social lifestyles. They also help abusers reflect on the harm that drugs have caused their loved ones, and mend frayed relationships.

62. After DRC, drug abusers are emplaced in the community under Prison’s supervision. There, they are given opportunities to work, and tailored support from YRSG career coaches help them manage challenges like stress. These help reduce the risk of relapse and ease abusers back into the society.

63. After completing their community-based programmes, the now ex-abusers are placed under the supervision of CNB. CNB will monitor them for up to five years, through regular urine or hair tests to ensure they stay clean. For ex-abusers with greater integration needs, case details will be shared between CNB and Prisons. This tight coordination amongst Home Team agencies ensures ex-abusers continue receiving the interventions they need.

64. To better curb long-term relapse, CNB will enhance its approach under a new ‘Supervision 2.0’ regime.

65. ‘Supervision 2.0’ aims to better support supervisees’ reintegration journey through more efficient monitoring. 

66. A key move is CNB’s plans to generally replace urine testing with hair testing as the default drug detection method during supervision. 

67. Previously, supervisees had to report to CNB for urine testing frequently, as often as twice a week. As hair retains evidence of drug consumption longer than urine, with similar testing reliability, hair testing will allow supervisees to report only once every quarter. This will reduce disruption to supervisees’ lives, and the stigma associated with reporting. 

68. CNB is piloting this and will study the results before full implementation.

Robust Enforcement Against Drugs 

69. To fight the scourge of drugs, we must also intensify enforcement.

70. We will operationalise the amendments made last year to the Misuse of Drugs Act to enable CNB to enforce more quickly against New Psychoactive Substances (NPS) which is a growing threat. The Home Team Science and Technology Agency is developing novel NPS testing capabilities to enable this.

71. We will also continue to collaborate with other countries to curb drug supply into Singapore. In 2023, CNB conducted 19 joint operations and investigations with foreign counterparts. 

72. One such operation led to the arrest of a Singaporean in Seoul involved in transnational drug trafficking on Telegram. At home, CNB dismantled 25 drug syndicates and seized more than $15 million worth of drugs. 


73. Sir, the Home Team will continue to work hard to keep Singapore safe and secure. We will continue to partner the community and innovate in corrections, rehabilitation, and re-integration to get even better re-offending outcomes. 

74. I encourage members of this House to show your support by wearing the green ribbon for a drug-free Singapore, and the yellow ribbon for giving second chances to ex-offenders, like what I have on here, as well as Minister Shanmugam, Minister Josephine and MOS Sun Xueling. 

75. You can collect these ribbons at the Parliament Library. 

76. On that note, thank you Mr Chairman.