Published: 29 October 2019
1. Mr Amrin Amin, Senior Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of Health, is leading a delegation of officers from the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Singapore Prison Service to the 21st Annual International Corrections and Prisons Association (ICPA) Conference, held in Buenos Aires, Argentina from 27 October to 1 November 2019.
2. This annual conference is attended by around 450 professionals and experts from over 70 countries. They come from government and state corrections agencies, academic groups and social work institutions. The theme of this year’s conference is “Strengthening our Correctional Cornerstones: Rights, Dignity, Safety and Support”.
3. SPS Amrin delivered a presentation at the conference on 28 October (Monday), which highlighted the efforts by the Singapore Government and community partners in successfully reducing the recidivism rates of Malay offenders over the past decade. This was significant because, like many countries, Singapore has an over-representation of offenders from minority communities.
4. SPS Amrin shared Singapore’s progress in this area:
(a) there was a significant decrease in the two-year relapse rate of Malay drug abusers from 41.6 per cent for the 2011 release cohort, to 27.8 per cent for the 2016 release cohort.
(b) the two-year recidivism rate of Malay offenders also registered a significant improvement, from 34.7 per cent for the 2011 release cohort to 28.9 per cent for the 2016 release cohort; and
(c) the total number of Malay drug abusers arrested have decreased significantly, halving from 3,200 in 1993 to about 1,700 now.
5. In his presentation, SPS Amrin said Government schemes and grants introduced over the years have helped to ensure that housing, healthcare and education remained affordable. This has enabled a large majority of Singaporeans to maintain stable and secure home environments and nurture stronger family units. This has, in turn, reduced the likelihood of offending and inter-generational offending.
6. SPS Amrin also gave examples of Government and community-led initiatives to prevent offending and support the rehabilitation of Malay offenders:
(a) In 2018, the Government initiated M3, a joint office supported by three key Malay-Muslim organisations, namely the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis), self-help group Mendaki and the People’s Association Malay Activity Executive Committees Council (Mesra). The M3 initiative aims to facilitate collaboration between these organisations and with other government agencies to uplift the Malay-Muslim community.
(b) As part of M3, the “Family and Inmate Through-care Assistance Haven (FITRAH)” was set up in 2018 by Muis to provide structured support to Malay-Muslim offenders during and after incarceration, to assist with their reintegration into society. FITRAH’s programmes include religious counselling in prison, and regular engagement with families of offenders. These are conducted by asatizah (religious teachers) volunteers and befrienders respectively. Through FITRAH, the volunteer to inmate ratio has improved from 1:74 in 2016 to 1:51 at the end of 2018.
(c) The “Dadah itu Haram” (Drugs are Forbidden) campaign was launched in 2017 as a community outreach platform to spread the anti-drug message within the Malay-Muslim community. To-date, it has brought the anti-drug message to more than 100,000 members of the community through various touchpoints such as barber shops, eateries, mosques and vehicle workshops. The campaign is supported by more than 300 volunteers and businesses who help spread the anti-drug message within the community.
(d) The Development and Reintegration Programme (DRP) was jointly developed by the Singapore Prison Service and the Association of Muslim Professionals (AMP) and launched in 2018. It was the first through-care programme where care starts while inmates are still in prison and continue after prison release. This continuity of care during their incarceration and post-release help reintegration back into society and prevent re-offending. The DRP includes personal development programmes for the inmates, family support programmes and case management services. As at October 2019, about 200 offenders and their families (more than 700 beneficiaries in total) have benefited from the programme.
(e) Halfway houses run by Malay-Muslim organisations Jamiyah and Pertapis provide support to offenders in their transition to society.
7. In closing, SPS Amrin said the results have been encouraging, and the Government will continue to work closely with community partners to provide targeted programmes for the Malay-Muslim community to further reduce offending and re-offending. SPS Amrin said community ownership, participation and support, working in close collaboration with the Government, would continue to be the cornerstone of efforts to help minority communities effectively tackle the issue of offending.