Parliamentary Speeches

Second Reading of Prisons (Amendment) Bill - Wrap-Up Speech by Assoc Prof Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim, Minister of State, Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of National Development

Published: 11 January 2022

1.   Madam Deputy Speaker, I thank the Members for their support for the Bill.

2.   Please allow me to address the questions and suggestions from the Members in turn.

Employment Preparation Scheme (EmPS)


3.   First, on the Employment Preparation Scheme (EmPS).

4.   I will first speak in Malay on family support, duration and criteria for the EmPS phases.

[Start of Malay Speech]

5.   Menurut Encik Sharael Taha, keluarga memainkan peranan kritikal dalam pemulihan seseorang pesalah. Cik Nadia Samdin pula bertanya sama ada fleksibiliti dapat diberikan kepada pesalah yang kurang mendapat sokongan keluarga bagi fasa cuti panjang di rumah, dan tempoh masa serta kriteria untuk maju ke fasa-fasa EmPS yang lain.

a.   Saya bersetuju dengan Encik Sharael bahawa sokongan keluarga yang kukuh boleh menjadi sumber motivasi bagi pesalah untuk berubah. Perkhidmatan Penjara Singapura, atau SPS, sedia maklum akan hal ini. Sebelum penempatan dalam EmPS, anggota keluarga para pesalah akan diberikan taklimat tentang keperluan-keperluan EmPS. Taklimat seperti ini membantu mereka untuk lebih memahami tentang EmPS supaya mereka dapat berikan galakan kepada pesalah dalam proses berintegrasi semula.

b.   Pesalah yang menunjukkan kemajuan semasa fasa di tempat latihan, boleh maju ke fasa-fasa cuti di rumah. Ini membolehkan mereka untuk meluangkan lebih banyak masa bersama orang yang tersayang dan sekaligus mengeratkan hubungan keluarga mereka. Jika seseorang pesalah menghadapi sebarang isu keluarga, beliau boleh memaklumkan kepada Pegawai Integrasi Semula yang akan mengatur sesi bersama pesalah, anggota keluarga dan Pegawai Integrasi Semula, untuk menyelesaikan isu tersebut.

c.   Walau bagaimanapun, pesalah yang tidak mempunyai sokongan keluarga yang kukuh tidak akan maju ke fasa cuti di rumah. Ini kerana, struktur keluarga yang kurang stabil boleh memudaratkan proses mereka berintegrasi semula. Bagi pesalah dalam golongan ini, mereka akan terus berada di Pusat Pelepasan Kerja sepanjang EmPS. SPS akan tetap memberikan cuti kepada mereka untuk meluangkan masa bersama orang yang tersayang.

d.   Jangka masa yang dilalui oleh pesalah dalam setiap fasa bergantung kepada keseluruhan tempoh penempatan EmPS dan penilaian SPS sama ada pesalah itu layak untuk maju ke fasa seterusnya. Secara purata, tempoh di tempat latihan dan fasa cuti hujung minggu di rumah, beranggaran antara dua hingga empat bulan setiap satu; yang diikuti dengan fasa cuti panjang di rumah bagi pesalah yang berkelayakan, sehingga mereka dibebaskan.

e.   Penilaian SPS akan mengambil kira faktor-faktor seperti kelakuan dan perkembangan semasa dalam EmPS, pematuhan syarat dan sokongan keluarga mereka. SPS akan turut juga mempertimbangkan kehadiran pesalah di tempat kerja atau di kelas, dan maklum balas dari majikan, pelatih atau guru.

[End of Malay speech]

English Translation:

5.   Mr Sharael Taha said the family plays a critical role in an inmate’s rehabilitation journey. Ms Nadia Samdin asked whether flexibility could be given to inmates lacking family support for the long home leave phase, and the duration and criteria to progress through the phases for the EmPS.

a.   I agree with Mr Sharael. Strong family support can be a powerful source of motivation for an inmate to change. The Singapore Prison Service, or SPS, recognises this. Prior to emplacement on the EmPS, the inmate’s family members will be briefed on the requirements of the scheme. This will allow them to better understand the scheme and encourage the inmate in his reintegration.

b.   Inmates who progress well during the in-camp phase can transit to the home leave phases. This will allow them to spend more time with their loved ones and gradually reconcile with their family. If an inmate faces any family issue, he may inform his Reintegration Officer who can arrange joint sessions involving the inmate, family members and the Reintegration Officer, to resolve the issue.

c.   However, inmates assessed to be without strong family support will not progress to the home leave phases. This is because the lack of a supportive family structure may be detrimental to their reintegration. For these inmates, they will continue to reside at the Work Release Centre throughout the EmPS. SPS will still allow them time-off to spend with their loved ones.

d.   The duration an inmate spends in each phase depends on the overall emplacement period on the EmPS and SPS’s assessment of whether he is suitable to progress to the next phase. On average, the duration of the in-camp and weekend home leave phases ranges from two to four months each; followed by the long home leave phase for suitable inmates, for the remaining period until they are released.

e.   SPS’s assessment will take into account factors such as conduct and progress while on the scheme, compliance with conditions and as mentioned, family support. SPS will also consider the inmate’s attendance for work or classes, and feedback from his employers, trainers or teachers.

Criteria and Assessment

6.   I will now continue in English. Mr Raj Joshua Thomas and Mr Desmond Choo asked if the Singapore Prison Service (SPS) can emplace as many eligible inmates on the EmPS as possible. Mr Sharael and Mr Yip Hon Weng asked about the eligibility for the EmPS in terms of offence committed, and what can be done to mitigate the risk of reoffending. Mr Murali Pillai asked how the EmPS will complement the Home Detention Scheme (HDS), Conditional Remission System (CRS), and Mandatory Aftercare Scheme (MAS).

a.   Our intention is to emplace as many inmates as possible on community-based programmes. As the rehabilitation of ex-offenders is one of our key missions, this is something that I can assure members on. That said, we also need to put safeguards in place. The trade-off is slightly different for each scheme, depending on their objective and scheme structure. Let me explain.

b.   The Second Schedule of the Prisons Act lists the offences that will disqualify an inmate from the HDS. As the inmate will be serving his sentence in the community while on HDS, we also need to ensure public safety.

c.   For the EmPS, an inmate is not automatically disqualified just because he or she committed an offence in the Second Schedule. While SPS will generally not emplace such inmates on the EmPS, we need some flexibility to exercise discretion for deserving cases.
i.   There could be inmates who have committed such offences who could benefit from the EmPS, as pointed out by Mr Raj Joshua Thomas in his speech.
ii.   Every inmate considered for the EmPS will be thoroughly screened and SPS will take into consideration, their response to rehabilitation and conduct in prison, as part of its assessment. Only when it is assessed that they do not present a significant threat to public safety, will they be considered for emplacement.
iii.   These cases will then be surfaced to an advisory committee for review and recommendation to the Commissioner of Prisons for emplacement on the EmPS.
iv.   If emplaced on the EmPS, the inmates will be under SPS’s close supervision. They will need to comply with strict conditions such as electronic tagging, curfew and reporting to mitigate the risk of reoffending.

d.   Mr Leon asked if there is an appeal process. Yes, there is. The inmate can approach the superintendent of prison and approach the Board of Visiting Justices.

e.   Mr Murali asked how the different programmes complement each other.
i.   There is some overlap between the HDS and EmPS. Inmates on the HDS will also benefit from employment, skills training, or education. The key difference is that the EmPS supports inmates who require more hand-holding – that is why the EmPS has an in-camp phase at SPS’s Work Release Centre where they can be more closely supervised and supported.
ii.   The CRS and MAS serve slightly different objectives. They lean more towards preventing re-offending, rather than work placement. The CRS seeks to deter inmates from re-offending when they are released on remission. They are subject to a basic condition that they should not be convicted of an offence committed during the remission period and be sentenced to imprisonment. Those who are at a higher risk of re-offending or need more support, will also be subjected to the MAS, a structured aftercare regime, which I mentioned in my earlier speech. Persons on the MAS may choose to work, upskill themselves or study. That said, all inmates will be offered assistance by YRSG, who can provide employment-related assistance to them.

f.   Together, these schemes are complementary and offer different avenues to ease inmates’ reintegration and deter re-offending. An inmate may be emplaced on the EmPS prior to his release and subsequently be subject to the CRS, and even MAS, after his release.

7.   Mr Raj Joshua Thomas asked if inmates who are older or have spent a substantial period in prison, could be emplaced on the EmPS.

a.   As long as inmates are eligible and found suitable, they may be emplaced on the EmPS, regardless of their age or time spent in prison.

8.   Mr Louis Ng, Mr Desmond Choo, and Mr Sharael Taha asked if the 14-day eligibility period for the EmPS includes remand, and at which stage inmates would be assessed for the EmPS. Mr Desmond Choo asked what tools are used to assess an inmate’s suitability. Mr Leon Perera asked about the process before cases are surfaced to the advisory committee.

a.   The 14-day period does not include time spent in remand.

b.   In practice, a person who is sentenced to imprisonment will generally serve more than 14 days in prison before he is emplaced on the EmPS. While in prison, he will have to undergo programmes that address his re-offending risks before he is emplaced on any community-based programme.

c.   Towards the tail-end of the inmate’s sentence, SPS will assess the inmates’ suitability for the community-based programmes. Factors such as progress and response to rehabilitation, conduct in prison and reintegration plan are taken into consideration. During the orientation briefing for newly admitted inmates and the inmates’ regular interviews by their Personal Supervisor, the inmates will be briefed and encouraged to take ownership of their rehabilitation and maintain good conduct.

d.   If an inmate is not found suitable for EmPS, SPS will prepare him to be directly released at the end of his sentence and may refer him to a social service agency for assistance.


9.   Mr Yip Hon Weng suggested that the conditions for inmates on the EmPS should prohibit vice activities.

a.   We agree. Inmates on the EmPS will be prohibited from patronising places of ill-repute such as brothels, nightclubs and massage parlours, among others. This falls under other conditions specified by the Commissioner of Prisons under the new sections 59M(1)(i) and 59M(2)(i). Currently, inmates emplaced on the Work Release Scheme (WRS) are already subject to this condition.

Work, Skills Training and Education

10.   Members asked about the work, skills training and education opportunities while on the EmPS.

11.   Mr Yip Hon Weng asked about matching of inmates with work, and how skills training will be allocated to inmates.

a.   These are done by YRSG, which is a statutory board under MHA. Besides providing skills training, YRSG also provides employment-related assistance to inmates and ex-offenders.

b.   Inmates are engaged to find out their interest in studies, work or skills training. As part of the employment-related assistance rendered to inmates, YRSG conducts career guidance sessions, and matches inmates to jobs based on their skills qualifications and work experience. YRSG then engages suitable employers to interview and hire the inmates before their emplacement, or work with Continuing Education and Training (CET) Centres to channel inmates for skills upgrading.

12.   Ms Nadia Samdin sought clarifications on the nature of jobs offered to inmates under the WRS and the EmPS. Mr Desmond Choo, Mr Sharael Taha and Mr Yip Hon Weng asked if there are plans to engage more employers.

a.   YRSG actively engages trade associations and chambers, industry stakeholders and employers to ensure adequate job opportunities for inmates upon their release.

b.   Currently, there are over 5,600 employers partnering YRSG to offer jobs to ex-offenders. Employers are predominantly from the Wholesale & Retail Trade, Manufacturing, Accommodation and Food Services industries.

c.   Both the WRS and EmPS will allow the inmates to take on a variety of jobs.

d.   YRSG constantly looks out for new employers to come on board.

13.   Mr Melvin Yong and Mr Sharael Taha asked if the EmPS could address manpower shortages in certain sectors or supply manpower to emerging sectors. Mr Desmond Choo asked if place-and-train sectors could be developed.

a.   YRSG pays attention to the pockets of manpower shortages which offer good career prospects.
i.   Under YRSG’s Train and Place and Grow initiative, or TAP and Grow, YRSG partners employers, trade associations and training institutions to equip inmates with industry-specific skills. This facilitates the inmates’ recruitment into the relevant industries and growth in their new careers after their release.
ii.   To date, YRSG has partnered the Singapore Precision Engineering and Technology Association, Mediacorp and Singapore Logistics Association to set up precision engineering, media skills and logistics training academies in prison. These initiatives help to build inmates’ skills in prison, which we hope will translate to good employment opportunities for them after they are released. YRSG will continue to look out for sectors with good employment and development opportunities for inmates.
iii.   YRSG intends to explore a similar initiative to the place-and-train scheme, where inmates would be placed on jobs upon release and undergo training during their employment to upgrade their skills.

14.   Mr Melvin Yong asked if the relevant authorities could review the hiring restrictions in certain sectors such as the security sector.

a.   This is a balance between rehabilitation, and public safety. For example, someone convicted of kidnapping would not be allowed to be a taxi driver. Different occupations and sectors have their specific considerations and thus restrictions on hiring ex-offenders. These restrictions are deemed necessary to protect the interests of the public.

b.   The agencies constantly review the criteria to find the most appropriate trade-off.

c.   Nonetheless, should an ex-offender face challenges in finding employment, YRSG will assist him in finding a suitable job.

15.   Mr Desmond Choo, Mr Sharael Taha, Mr Yip Hon Weng and Ms Nadia Samdin asked how employers and inmates would be supported on the EmPS to help inmates stay gainfully employed in the longer term.

a.   The Jobs Growth Incentive (JGI), was introduced as an extraordinary, time-bound measure to expand local hiring amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. In September 2021, the Government extended the JGI until March 2022, with stepped down support levels. Employers who hired ex-offenders through YRSG, the Industrial and Services Co-operative Society (ISCOS), or halfway houses engaged by SPS, will automatically receive the JGI of up to $36,000 for these hires. The Government will take into account the labour market’s recovery in assessing the next steps for JGI after March 2022.

b.   There are other ways in which we can support employers and inmates.

c.   Inmates who are working during the EmPS will be assigned a Career Coach for up to 12 months. This support will continue after an inmate has completed his EmPS if his emplacement period is less than 12 months. The Career Coach provides support to help an inmate adapt to job demands and the workplace environment.

d.   The employer is also supported by the Career Coach, who helps the inmate and employer understand each other’s expectations and perspectives.

e.   The Career Coach engages the employer and the inmate’s supervisor regularly and assists to resolve any work-related issues. In doing so, the employer can better understand any unique need of the inmate and adopt a more effective management style.

f.   In partnership with the Institute for Human Resource Professionals, YRSG will be developing the coaching competencies of employers and supervisors through its Project Beyond Hiring initiative, to help them develop and retain inmate or ex-offender employees better.

16.   Mr Yip Hon Weng asked if checks would be done on employers and whether there should be regulations and penalties for errant employers who exploit inmates. Mr Sharael Taha asked about the support available for inmates who face discrimination. Mr Leon Perera asked how companies will be selected and work conditions regulated to ensure fairness and worker dignity.

a.   YRSG requires partnering employers to fulfil certain criteria. These include abiding by fair employment practices, providing CPF contributions for employees, adopting supportive work practices, and providing market-relevant salaries, including aligning salaries with the Progressive Wage Model.

b.   Employers partnering YRSG are aware of inmates’ needs, and most of them provide on-the-job training for the inmates. YRSG also encourages employers to keep to fair and supportive work practices.
i.   If an employer is reported to treat employees unfairly because of their criminal records, YRSG may pause, or even cease the partnership with the employer.
ii.   If an inmate experiences discrimination or biased treatment at work because of his criminal records, the Career Coach will engage both the inmate and employer to resolve the issue.
iii.   If necessary, the Career Coach may also advise the inmate to seek help from the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (TAFEP).
iv.   More serious cases that may breach employment laws may be reported to MOM for investigation.

17.   Mr Yip Hon Weng asked if inmates’ salaries will be managed by SPS.

a.   The employers will credit the remuneration directly into the inmates’ bank accounts. To ensure that inmates without a bank account receive their wages, YRSG works with employers to make alternative arrangements, such as issuing salaries in cash cheques in the first month of employment, to give the inmates time to open a bank account.

18.   Mr Desmond Choo asked if MHA could work with SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG), and e2i to upskill inmates. Ms Nadia Samdin and Mr Sharael Taha asked about the types of training and education that inmates on the EmPS may undergo. Mr Leon Perera asked how training value will be ascertained.

a.   YRSG provides nationally accredited skills training to inmates and ex-offenders to facilitate their long-term career development and mobility. The training is aligned to Singapore’s Skills Framework developed by SSG, to ensure that inmates are trained in market-relevant skills. YRSG is working with SSG to explore hosting some training classes on virtual platforms as an alternative to physical lessons.

b.   YRSG also collaborated with e2i to host interviews between prospective employers and pre-release inmates on e2i’s virtual portal. YRSG will also work with e2i to host workshops to equip inmates with CV-building and interview preparation skills.

c.   Specific to the EmPS, YRSG will engage Approved Training Organisations, or ATOs, and CET Centres to provide skills training for inmates on the scheme.

d.   YRSG is curating a set of Critical Core Skills modules for inmates on the EmPS to help them better adapt to the workplace and enhance their employability. Formulated by SSG, the modules comprise 16 competencies that workplaces deem most essential. YRSG is currently exploring these modules with suitable partners and training providers.

e.   These skills training assure employers that inmates are adequately prepared and qualified as per other workers, and allows inmates to subsequently upskill as they progress in their respective careers.

f.   Other measures to ascertain training value would be through internalised and exhibited behaviour by the inmates, such as whether they successfully complete and obtain a pass grade for the training, are successfully hired by employers, and their subsequent performance on the job.

g.   Inmates who are keen to pursue self-selected training or academic programmes after attending YRSG’s facilitated courses can do so at their own expenses, subject to SPS’s approval.

h.   Inmates on the EmPS may also pursue education such as GCE ‘N’ to ‘A’ levels, diploma and degree courses, if they qualify for enrolment.

19.   Mr Sharael Taha asked if inmates can use their SkillsFuture credits. Ms Nadia Samdin and Mr Desmond Choo asked if inmates who undergo training and education will receive support such as allowances. Mr Leon Perera asked if inmates could benefit from subsidised rates for education fees.

a.   Inmates who attend training courses arranged by YRSG are not required to pay for the training. There is a national subsidy of 70 to 90 per cent for skills training provided by ATOs and CET Centres, and the remaining cost will be borne by YRSG.

b.   However, should an inmate wish to pursue further education after completing the YRSG-arranged courses, he will need to pay for the courses himself.

c.   If an inmate has financial difficulty in supporting his own training or education, he may choose to work under the EmPS before embarking on skills training or education. If need be, he may apply for the Yellow Ribbon Fund STAR Bursary or the Education Support Programme offered by Singapore After-Care Association, to support his education. Inmates from low-income household may also apply for various Government Bursaries available such as Higher Education Community Bursary or Higher Education Bursary, to subsidise their education fees.

d.   Meanwhile, key expenses such as accommodation and training are covered during inmates’ in-camp phase, which would ease their initial finances.

20.   Mr Melvin Yong asked about the efforts to help inmates adapt to a society where the use of technology is increasingly prevalent. Mr Sharael Taha asked if inmates have access to electronic devices for training. Mr Leon Perera asked if ex-inmates face any impediments in accessing electronic payment services.

a.   SPS and YRSG have programmes in place to help inmates prepare for a digitally advanced job market and society.
i.   In prison, inmates can use SPS-issued tablets to keep in touch with loved ones and pick up digital skills.
ii.   Since 2019, YRSG has offered the “SkillsFuture for Digital Workplace” course for inmates serving their sentence in the community. The curriculum teaches the use of internet banking and payments, e-communications platforms, Government e-services and basic cybersecurity. YRSG is also developing tiered training pathways for inmates to gain digital skills, which will commence in Q2 2022.
iii.   Inmates are expected to have their personal mobile devices that are required for training or learning. If they cannot afford one, training providers could provide loaned devices for use. Other equipment such as laptops and computers would be provided by training providers.
iv.   If an inmate requires assistance with e-payment services, his Reintegration Officer will guide him in accessing the services.

21.   Mr Yip Hon Weng asked if inmates on the EmPS would attend classes with the public and whether identifiers associated with inmates could be removed.

a.   Inmates will attend classes with members of public and there will not be any identifiers.

b.   For those who wear an electronic tag on the ankle, they may choose to cover it with trousers or long skirt. SPS is currently developing a tracking device that resembles a digital watch which can be worn on the wrist. More discreet than the ankle tag, it reduces stigmatisation and boosts the inmates’ self-confidence.

22.   Ms Nadia Samdin, Mr Desmond Choo, Mr Sharael Taha and Mr Yip Hon Weng asked how co-workers and fellow classmates would accommodate the inmates and offer a conducive environment for rehabilitation. Mr Yip Hon Weng asked how the needs of victims of crime can be protected from the presence of an inmate.

a.   Under the Yellow Ribbon Project, we aim to promote a more accepting society that is willing to offer ex-offenders a second chance to start afresh. Ultimately, the safety and security of society is best served when ex-offenders successfully rehabilitate and reintegrate into society as contributing members. We hope that employers, co-workers and classmates would give inmates and ex-offenders second chances.  

b.   Education, skills training and employment play a very important role in inmates’ rehabilitation. The Government strives to strike a balance between protecting the public and providing ex-offenders the opportunity to live, work, and learn in the same way as other members of the society.

c.   Besides enhancing inmates’ employability, it is our hope that inmates can form positive pro-social networks, assimilate into society and reduce the chances of re-offending.

d.   We do not compel individuals to reveal their inmate or ex-offender status to avoid further stigmatization.

e.   If there is feedback that an inmate has misbehaved in any way towards anyone, victim or not, SPS’s Reintegration Officer will look into the matter. If an inmate breaches any condition or commits any offence, he may be taken off the scheme.

Emplacement, Abscondment and Resources

23.   Mr Melvin Yong asked about the recidivism rate of inmates on the WRS. Mr Sharael Taha asked about the WRS emplacement figures and how abscondment would be addressed. Ms Nadia Samdin, Mr Sharael Taha and Mr Yip Hon Weng also asked if there are adequate resources catered for the EmPS.

a.   About 200 inmates are emplaced on the WRS yearly. As of end 2021, there were 101 inmates on the scheme, forming about three per cent of the convicted inmate population. In 2021, the number of inmates who absconded during their WRS averaged about two per month, of which is about 1.3 per cent of the WRS population per month.

b.   Based on the latest data, for inmates released from 2014 to 2018, the average two-year recidivism rate of inmates who had completed the WRS is 15 per cent as compared to 24 per cent for the general inmate population. Based on SPS’s experience, the stepdown approach of the WRS has been useful and it will continue to be a feature of the EmPS.

c.   At present, we are not expecting any significant increase in the number of inmates emplaced on the EmPS because the criteria for emplacement on the EmPS is similar to those for the WRS. This applies to the abscondment numbers too.

d.   SPS has measures in place to address abscondment.
i.   If there is any sign of possible relapse, SPS will first intensify its engagements with the inmate. The Reintegration Officer and Correctional Rehabilitation Specialist will arrange joint sessions involving the inmate, his family members, and his Career Coach, to address any issue. 
ii.   If an inmate absconds, SPS will work closely with the Police and CNB to re-arrest him.

e.   In terms of resourcing and support, SPS’s Reintegration Officers and Correctional Rehabilitation Specialists are equipped with the necessary skills to supervise and support inmates in the community. Where possible, SPS leverages technology to support its work.
i.   For example, SPS will be adopting biometrics to monitor inmates on the home leave phases for curfew compliance. Today, SPS verifies inmates’ compliance manually via phone calls or physical checks. By including a fingerprint authentication function in the monitoring unit that is temporarily installed at the inmates’ home, officers can more effectively confirm that the supervisees are at home by asking the supervisees to verify their identity via the fingerprint function.

f.   SPS has no plans to expand the capacity at Institution S2, the Work Release Centre, for the EmPS. MHA will work within its existing resources to implement the EmPS.

24.   Mr Leon Perera asked if prison officers will have the chance to provide pastoral care to released inmates. This is already being done. They can be posted to the Community Corrections Command as Reintegration Officers, where, as a Reintegration Officer, the prison officer will supervise and guide newly released inmates who are required to comply with mandatory aftercare conditions under the Mandatory Aftercare Scheme.

Facilitate SPS’s Operations and Administration

25.   Madam Deputy Speaker, let me now turn to the questions on enhancing SPS’s operations and administration.

Provide Clarity on Prison Offences

26.   Mr Louis Ng asked for examples of minor and aggravated prison offences. He also asked if the Superintendent is the one who determines whether a prison offence is minor or aggravated.

a.   An example of a minor offence is using another inmate’s e-letter account. An example of an aggravated offence is open defiance.

b.   The Superintendent follows sections 72 and 73 in determining if a prison offence is minor or aggravated, and may punish the inmate accordingly if the inmate is found guilty of the offence. There are checks and balances in place to ensure that inmates are dealt with appropriately for committing prison offences.

c.   For instance, under section 71, if a Superintendent imposes punishment on an inmate who had committed an aggravated offence, the Superintendent is required to notify the Commissioner. The Commissioner may then confirm or vary the punishment imposed by the Superintendent. If the Commissioner does not agree with the punishment, she may direct a reinvestigation into the case. There have been instances where an aggravated prison offence was reduced to a minor prison offence, after reinvestigation.

27.   Mr Louis Ng sought clarifications on the prison offences that would be applicable to inmates on the EmPS.

a.   If an inmate commits a prison offence such as quarrelling with or assaulting another inmate at his workplace, it will not be considered as “within prison”. Clause 24 of the Bill is clear on this. Such acts would be classified as breaches of the conditions of his EmPS order under section 72(1)(48). SPS will investigate and take appropriate disciplinary action against inmates who have committed such breaches.

b.   If an inmate commits an aggravated assault outside prison, the case will be reported to the Police for criminal investigations.

c.   SPS does not take disciplinary action against inmates who commit self-harm outside prison. Instead, SPS will provide the necessary assistance and interventions to address the supervisee’s self-harm tendencies.

Defer an Inmate’s Release by up to Three Weeks to Carry Out Outstanding Court-ordered Punishment

28.   Mr Yip Hon Weng asked how many inmates have had their release deferred in order to carry out any outstanding court-ordered punishment.

a.   As mentioned in my speech earlier, on average, there were nine inmates per year whose release was deferred by the Commissioner under section 50I(3) of the Prisons Act and four inmates per year whose detention was extended by the court under section 326 of the Criminal Procedure Code, in order to carry out outstanding court-ordered punishment.

29.   Mr Murali Pillai gave a scenario where the Commissioner of Prisons could be placed in a conflicted position. He said there could be a situation where the Commissioner is asked to consider deferring the issuance of a remission order because there is insufficient time for carrying out the corporal punishment on an inmate because of, amongst others, SPS’s own decisions in relation to the remission period for the inmate.

a.   I would like to assure Mr Murali that this conflict would not arise. This is because the restoration and forfeiture of an inmate’s remission will not result in him serving less than two-thirds of his imprisonment sentence before remission is granted.

b.   And because inmates must serve two-thirds of their imprisonment sentence before they can be considered for release under the CRS, this situation will not arise.

c.   On the more fundamental question on whether the Commissioner of Prisons should continue to have the power to defer issuing the remission order, from our perspective, this arrangement, to address operational issues, has been working well, and can be retained. And like what I explained earlier, there should not be a situation where the Commissioner is put in a conflicted position.

30.   Mr Yip Hon Weng suggested that instead of increasing the period of deferment under section 50I(3) of the Prisons Act, we could review the 14-day period for filing a Notice of Appeal.

a.   The 14-day period is given to allow individuals, not limited to inmates alone, to have sufficient time to think if they wish to appeal against a judgement, order or sentence.

b.   In the event that an appeal is filed, whether within the 14-day period or by invoking section 380(1) of the CPC, SPS will seek the Court’s direction on whether to release the inmate or to detain the inmate under section 326 of the CPC.

c.   Both powers under section 50I(3) of the Prisons Act and section 326 of the CPC, serve to ensure justice takes its course. SPS will exercise such powers judiciously and no inmate’s release will be deferred by more than what is necessary for carrying out the court-ordered punishment. This means that the inmate concerned will be caned at the earliest possible instance and released soonest thereafter.

Allow the Minister for Home Affairs to make regulations related to inmates’ communications

31.   Ms Nadia Samdin asked if the processing time of correspondence between inmates and their families would be affected.

a.   The answer is no. This relates to the communications part. We do not foresee any changes to the processing time needed for written correspondence between inmates and their loved ones as the screening process will not be affected.

32.   Mr Leon Perera asked about the checks and balances in place for the new regulations on inmates’ correspondence.

a.   As I mentioned in my opening speech, correspondence will only be withheld when they undermine the security or good order of the prison, or incite the commission of any offence.

b.   Prison officers are mindful of the sensitivities involved in processing and screening inmates’ correspondence. While every attempt is made to preserve the confidentiality of inmates’ letters, any content with security implications will be surfaced for consideration by a superior officer, to decide if the letter should be withheld.

c.   He also asked how the prescribed persons will know if the information crosses the threshold. MHA is still reviewing the type of information that meets the threshold. However, I have provided some clear examples in my speech earlier. On another part, I would just like to share that the Prisons Act does not prescribe any punishments for breaching these provisions.

d.   We also like to clarify that these amendments are not an attempt to stop inmates’ communication and prevent them from speaking out about genuine grievances or give feedback. Based on the example provided by the honourable member where an inmate communicates about his injuries suffered in prison, we will not withhold or redact such correspondences unless it is assessed to affect the security or good order of the prison, or incite the commission of an offence. Therefore, the context of the communication is important, so, the facts of the case.

e.   When the correspondence written by an inmate is withheld, he will be informed and he will be given a letterform to re-write the letter if he chooses to do so. An inmate will also be informed if any correspondence addressed to him is withheld. The inmate may ask his personal supervisor as to why the letter was withheld and the reason will be shared with the inmate.

f.   On whether the new provision on controls to inmates’ correspondence will have specific carve outs for any groups, including lawyers. The new provision on control of inmates’ correspondence is intended to enable prisons to regulate information that affects the security or good order of the prison, and incites the commission of any offence. We do not intend to exempt any persons, including lawyers, from this provision.

Other Matters

33.   Let me address the other issues raised by members. Mr Leon Perera also asked if SPS could provide financial literacy courses. This is already being done as part of the pre-release programme. SPS also works with community partners to run enrichment programmes for inmates on the EmPS, including a financial literacy programme.

34.   He also asked if SPS could partner other banks, besides POSB, to set up bank accounts. We assess that currently, this is sufficient, as POSB is commonly used. Having said that, we will monitor the demand and situation.

35.   He also asked about the allowances and salaries of what the inmates get. I would like to clarify that there is a difference between work programmes in prison and work in the community. For work programmes in prison, they are given allowances. If they work in the community, YRSG will match the inmates to jobs that offer market-rate salary.

36.   He also asked if the Employment Act applies to inmates working on the EmPS. The answer is yes. When they are working in the community, they have a contract of service, share an employer-employee relationship with their company and thus, they are protected under the Employment Act.

37.   He also asked one question that I have covered in my Malay speech, he asked what about those inmates without family support. As I said in my Malay speech, inmates without strong family support may still be emplaced on the EmPS. However, they may not progress to the home leave phase. For these inmates, they can continue to reside at the Work Release Centre throughout EmPS.

38.   So, we will do our best to give the opportunity to all eligible inmates, because we believe that as part of the rehabilitation, reintegration process, the support from the family, community and employment is very important. I met many people who have given very good support to what we have been doing with regards to the EmPS, and they realise that this will help to enhance the skills and the opportunities of the inmates.


39.   Madam Deputy Speaker, Members have also spoken extensively about the stigma that inmates and ex-offenders face. Mr Murali Pillai went a step further to suggest that talented ex-offenders be given a chance to perform at NDP 2022, and we thank him for his suggestion. We will continue to galvanise the community and employers to act together for second chances.

40.   Through community-based programmes such as the EmPS, we hope that inmates have the opportunity to boost their work experience, improve their education, or deepen their skillsets. Eventually, these will help them to create long-term career development and mobility, allowing them to show that they are contributing individuals at work and to an accepting society.

41.   Mr Perera mentioned about the five-year recidivism rate, which is about two times higher than the two-year recidivism rate. We agree that there is room for improvement. That is why we want to implement new programmes such as the EmPS to improve this rate. However, SPS and YRSG cannot do this alone over the longer timeframe. We need even stronger support from this House, families, the community, and an accepting society.

42.   Madam Deputy Speaker, I beg to move.