Published: 05 April 2022
Mr Leon Perera: To ask the Minister for Home Affairs (a) whether the Government has any policy prohibiting ex-offenders from entering or being employed at key installations such as Jurong Island and Changi Airport; (b) if so, what categories of offences are covered by this policy; (c) what conditions need to be met before the prohibition lapses; and (d) if not, how many ex-offenders have been employed at these key installations over the past five years
Mr K Shanmugam, Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for Law:
1. Mr Speaker sir, I thank the Member for the question.
2. There are several facilities in Singapore that require security protection. The security measures required at these different facilities are assessed by the relevant agencies. Jurong Island and Changi Airport are among the facilities that are considered to be high risk. Anyone who wishes to have access to the restricted areas in these facilities will have to be screened by the Police.
3. We have seen in Singapore and overseas, incidents where insiders used or attempted to use their access for wrong purposes, sometimes with serious consequences.
4. Past offences are a consideration when screening persons for such passes. However, the Police do not rule out ex-offenders on a blanket basis. The factors relating to the offence are assessed.
5. A person with antecedents of concern may also be required to remain offence-free for some time before he or she is allowed access to such sensitive facilities.
6. The Member may wish to clarify the specific categories of offences and the associated facilities that he thinks should be exempted from such screening, if that is the purport of his question.
7. I say this because it is not clear what the real concern is. Is the concern that these people are not able to find decent jobs, or that they are not able to find jobs in specific security sensitive places?
8. Our approach is to help ex-offenders find jobs, decent jobs. Yellow Ribbon Singapore (YRSG) works closely with employers and industry partners, so that an ex-offender can find jobs across a wide range of sectors, and not just at key installations. As at end of February 2022 – about 5,800 employers are registered with YRSG to offer employment to ex-offenders. With over 2,700 job listings, there are many job vacancies, and as any employer will tell members here, the key issue in Singapore is actually lack of manpower.
9. YRSG provides employment assistance in three ways:
(a) Placement services;
(b) Career retention support; and
(c) Engagements with industry stakeholders.
10. On placement services, placement exercises are held in prison to match inmates with suitable employers. The inmate’s interests, skill level, and incarceration history, are considered, to best match them to a job. In 2021, YRSG provided employment assistance to over 2,900 inmates. Of these, over 2,700, or 94% of them secured jobs successfully.
11. But even after finding a job, some may face challenges transiting from prison to the work environment. YRSG assigns a Career Coach to each ex-offender at work for up to 12 months after their release. That is career retention support. The Career Coaches engage ex-offenders regularly to set behavioural goals, provide encouragement, and work closely with their employers to resolve work-related issues. So, I hope Members will appreciate that quite a lot is done to help [ex-offenders], because we want them to succeed.
12. Of the ex-offenders released in 2020, career retention support was provided for more than 1,700 persons. As of December 2021, 87% had stayed on the job for three months, and 70% for six months. And I think if you compare it across the world, our approach compares with the best around.
13. Third, YRSG actively engages industry and employers on good career opportunities available.
14. Earlier this year, I mentioned the TAP (Train and Place) & Grow Initiative to this House. Under the TAP & Grow initiative, training academies in prison have been set up in partnership with the Media, Precision Engineering and Logistics sectors. Inmates will be offered jobs by partner employers upon release.
15. About 650 inmates will benefit from the TAP & Grow initiative in these three sectors every year.
16. This year, YRSG aims to expand the initiative into the Food Services sector.
17. So, [as] both Mr Perera and other Members can see, a lot of effort has been put into this, into helping ex-offenders find, and keep, decent jobs.
18. So, it is not clear to me why the focus is on employment of ex-offenders at key security installations specifically, without considering the wider landscape and the efforts by YRSG, which I am sure all Members are aware of. The Member’s colleague, AP Jamus Lim, made a somewhat related set of points last year, and I told him, do you want convicted paedophiles working in childcare centres, or those who have been convicted of serious offences, or those who have been convicted of serious offences albeit non-violent, to use his language, to be security officers at condominiums? Or would it be better that we have a risk matrix, and assess suitability for different jobs, and yet help all of them find jobs? We take their livelihoods seriously and we want to help them.
19. I also suggested to AP Jamus Lim that if he suggested some condominiums at suitable places, we can consider trying out his suggestions. Get the residents to agree. Proof of the suggestion, and how serious it is, is in getting done on the ground. But since then, I have not heard from AP Jamus Lim. Likewise, if Mr Perera thinks it is useful, he can suggest some condos to try out these ideas, then maybe we can take these suggestions seriously, and not dismiss them as political soundbites.
20. So, I will repeat my suggestion here: If Mr Perera or AP Lim believe that ex-offenders – be they child molesters or have convictions for housebreaking – should be allowed to be say, security officers, without their conviction record being available to employers, or that they should be allowed access to highly security sensitive locations, [then] first, maybe we can try out some private installations which they can suggest, and I am prepared to consider this favourably. If they say well it depends on the offence, then in principle, they agree with the approach taken by the Government, and that is what we do now, because we adopt a risk matrix approach.
21. Thank you, Sir.