Published: 14 September 2021
Mr Zhulkarnain Abdul Rahim: To ask the Minister for Home Affairs (a) what are the challenges faced by older prison inmates aged 55 years and above in terms of employment, accommodation, rehabilitation and reintegration into society upon their release from prison; and (b) what are the measures and initiatives available during imprisonment and after release to assist elderly inmates to better prepare themselves upon release from prison, having regard to their accommodation, health and retirement needs.
1. Offenders aged 55 years old and above (“older offenders”) face similar rehabilitation and reintegration challenges as other offenders, in the areas of housing, social support, financial needs and employment. Some older offenders may also face age-related physical and mental health issues.
2. All offenders, including older offenders, have access to rehabilitation programmes while in prison. Where there are additional needs specific to their age group, the existing programmes can be adapted to cater to them.
3. To facilitate their reintegration into society, eligible offenders can be emplaced on Community-Based Programmes (CBP), to serve the tail-end of their sentence at their residence or approved community facilities under the supervision and support of the Singapore Prison Service (SPS). Offenders who are at a higher risk of reoffending or require more support in their reintegration, may be emplaced on the Mandatory Aftercare Scheme (MAS). MAS is a structured aftercare regime that provides enhanced community support, counselling and case management with tight supervision. Of the 4,394 offenders emplaced on CBP or MAS in 2020, 948 (22%) of them were older offenders.
4. All offenders, including older offenders, have access to healthcare services. The Prison Medical Officer (PMO) may make referrals for offenders to continue with treatment after their release. Sufficient medication will be given until the medical appointment in the community. Offenders with mental health issues may be referred to the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) for follow-up after their release.
5. Family support is important and offenders are encouraged to maintain their relationships with their loved ones via letters and visits. For those without family support, volunteers are an important source of support. In 2019, SPS introduced the Throughcare Volunteer Framework to strengthen pro-social support for offenders, including older offenders. Various social service agencies and religious organisations collaborate with SPS under this framework. The volunteers build rapport with offenders through regular programmes or activities during incarceration, and continue to support them after they are released.
6. Befrienders play an important role in supporting and guiding offenders in their rehabilitation. Of the 173 offenders who were assigned befrienders in 2021, 41 (24%) were older offenders. In 2020, SPS collaborated with Lions Befrienders (LB) to train befrienders to communicate with and support older offenders. About 15 LB staff had volunteered to be SPS befrienders, to offer their expertise and experience in working with older people.
7. About six months before release, Personal Supervisors will engage offenders to discuss their post-release plans. All requests for post-release accommodation assistance are referred to SPS’ Family Resource Centres (FRCs), which are staffed by social workers. Older offenders who need long-term residential care may be referred to nursing homes or welfare homes. If referred to halfway houses or shelters for interim accommodation, case-workers will work with the ex-offenders to secure long-term housing.
8. Post-release employment and support are critical to reintegration. To promote better career outcomes, Yellow Ribbon Singapore (YRSG) prepares offenders for employment through skills training and employment assistance.
9. In prison, nationally-accredited skills training is available to all offenders, including older offenders. Skills training is complemented by YRSG’s job placement and career coaching services. YRSG matches older offenders with jobs suitable for their skill levels, physical health and personal interests. YRSG may also assign a career coach to support the ex-offender on work issues for up to 12 months after release and help him/her stay in the job.
10. Recognising that older offenders would need additional help to improve their digital literacy, YRSG partnered the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) to roll out a customised ‘Seniors Go Digital’ training for residents at the Selarang Halfway House (SHWH). Three sessions have been conducted since April 2021, benefitting 35 SHWH older residents. They have learnt how to use applications on smartphones for communications, and access digital government and payment services.