Written Replies to Parliamentary Questions

Written Reply to Parliamentary Question on Drug Offenders Who Have Returned to Drug Consumption after Release from Rehabilitation More Than Once, by Mr K Shanmugam, Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for Law

Published: 03 November 2020



Mr Gan Thiam Poh: To ask the Minister for Home Affairs (a) in the past five years, how many drug offenders have returned to drug consumption after release from rehabilitation more than once; (b) how effective is the new drug test through diagnosis of hair instead of urine to identify the repeated offenders; and (c) what are the measures taken to prevent offenders returning to drug consumption.



    1. From 2015 to 2019, the number of drug abusers who relapsed after having been released from the Drug Rehabilitation Centre (DRC) was approximately 1,300 per year.


    2. However, to better understand the effectiveness of our rehabilitation efforts, we track the two-year recidivism rate. This is an established indicator adopted by most rehabilitation institutions worldwide. The two-year recidivism rate for DRC inmates has remained low, hovering between 23 per cent and 32 per cent in the past five years. In the 1990s, it was about 60 to 70 per cent.


    3. Hair analysis was introduced in 2012 as an alternative drug abuse detection tool. It is as effective as the urine test. Its advantage is that it can detect drug consumption from several months earlier, compared to the urine test which can only detect drug consumption from within one week. The longer detection window allows for a longer drug supervision reporting interval, and this reduces the disruption to the ex-abuser as he seeks to reintegrate into society after release.


    4. MHA adopts a multi-pronged approach to tackling drug addiction: robust laws, an evidence-based rehabilitation framework, and community and family support.


    5. With the amendments to the Misuse of Drugs Act in 2019, drug abusers who have not committed other criminal offences will be channelled to the DRC to undergo rehabilitation. In the DRC, abusers undergo psychology-based correctional programmes calibrated to their specific risks and needs, as well as family programmes and skills training.


    6. Abusers will subsequently progress to the Community-based Programme phase, where the Singapore Prison Service (“SPS”) and Yellow Ribbon Singapore (“YRSG”), in collaboration with community partners, provide support to the abusers in securing employment or opportunities to study, mending their relationship with their family, and generally reintegrating into society.


    7. After the completion of treatment, former drug abusers undergo a period of supervision by the Central Narcotics Bureau (“CNB”). Besides ensuring that the supervisees report for urine or hair tests, CNB officers will check on their well-being and follow up on their reintegration needs. This allows CNB to intervene early and refer the supervisees to appropriate agencies for follow up, to reduce their risk of relapse.


    8. Community support is critical to helping former drug abusers lead drug-free lives. SPS, CNB and YRSG work with community partners to provide support to former drug abusers in areas such as training, career facilitation, family support and counselling. That said, more importantly, it is the personal determination of the individual former abuser to turn away from drugs and lead a drug-free life henceforth, that will make the difference.


Prisons Management and Rehabilitation
Law and order