Published: 27 July 2023
Commissioner Yong Lee,
Phillip, Chairman of Yellow Ribbon Singapore,
Sunny, CEO of YRSG,
CARE Network Partners,
Ladies and Gentlemen
A very good morning to all of you.
1. Thank you for being here.
2. Care Network, and the work that we all do, is about second chances, helping people who for one reason or another, have gotten into crime, to stay away from crime, to stay away from the prisons.
3. We – and I’m referring to the Ministry of Home Affairs, the entire corrections system, the Prisons (Singapore Prison Service), YRSG, everyone – have put in a lot of effort in this area, and I usually break it up into three areas:
(a) First, pre-incarceration. Clearly, if we can prevent people – particularly young people – from offending in the first place, then we can save their lives, and we can help the system.
(b) Second, for those who unfortunately get into prison – during incarceration, we focus very intensively on rehabilitation programmes because we want them to go out, fulfil their full potential, and not come back to prison again.
(c) And third, post-incarceration – which is equally important, to help ex-offenders reintegrate into the community.
Prevention Efforts – National Committee of Prevention, Rehabilitation and Recidivism (NCPR)
4. If you look at the phases – why do we deal with prevention?
5. In the past, a lot of the focus in corrections was in dealing with those who have already committed crimes.
6. But, if you can help someone to stay away from crime, keep him out of prison in the first place, it is so much better.
7. It is much better for the individual, and much better for society. Because once someone is in prison, a lot more effort is needed.
8. So, prevention is critical.
9. In 2018, five years ago, the Government set up the National Committee of Prevention, Rehabilitation and Recidivism, or NCPR for short.
10. The NCPR oversees national efforts to prevent offending, enhance the rehabilitation and reintegration of ex-offenders.
11. Over the last two years, the Committee has been studying three areas in particular.
(a) One, how to break the cycle of intergenerational cycle of offending;
(b) Two, prevent substance abuse amongst young people; and
(c) Three, prevent sexual offending amongst young people.
12. The agencies in the NCPR have recommended several measures – upstream, and downstream. The idea is to:
(a) Shore up the protective factors for those at risk;
(b) Intervene earlier to prevent offending; and
(c) Provide coordinated support to the families of inmates and those who are at risk.
13. Social service agencies and grassroot volunteers will be part of this.
14. More details will be shared later in September, at a major event – the Conversations on Youth 2023.
During: Rehab and Reintegration
15. The second phase is during incarceration.
16. I have spoken about the targeted, evidence-based rehabilitation efforts by Prisons, YRSG and their partners when I spoke about this in May, and several times earlier.
17. All of this is driven by our overall approach in corrections – we don’t approach this as securing them in custody and discipline of inmates. That is a key focus, but that is not and no longer the only focus.
18. Instead, a key focus is also on rehabilitation, and turning around the lives of inmates.
19. And we have been seeing results. I spoke at the SPS-YRSG Corporate Advance in May about our recidivism rates. They are much lower compared to many other comparable places, and relatively stable – at about 20%, compared to the usually 40%, 45% to 60% in many other places.
Post: Care Network
20. The third phase, and in fact often the most challenging phase, is post-incarceration. This is where networks like CARE Network and the Desistor Network, which I spoke about in May, have played and will play a key role.
21. This year’s CARE Network Summit theme is “Desistance in the Community”.
22. In simple terms – once you come out of prison, living a crime-free life, and hopefully achieving to the best of your potential.
23. We know that ex-offenders face many challenges when they come out – employment, housing and family relationships.
24. In some cases, the difficulties persist for a very long time.
25. The CARE Network was formed 23 years ago in the year 2000 to help ex-offenders navigate some of these challenges.
26. The Yellow Ribbon Project was started by the CARE Network in 2004, to encourage societal acceptance of ex-offenders.
27. So, the Yellow Ribbon Fund, for example, co-funds programmes by CANVAS – an interest group that has ex-offender who are artists who received training while in Prison, and helps them through mentoring and building digital skills.
28. Because of all your hard work and support, this gives the ex-offenders a more inclusive and supportive environment for their reintegration. Let me give one example, so you can see that it works, and it is very inspiring.
29. Naresh is one example.
30. At the very young age of 16, Naresh joined a secret society and fell into a life of crime. He went to prison multiple times for rioting and drug offences.
31. In his second last incarceration, his mother fell sick. That impacted on him, and he wanted to change. But after his release, he soon relapsed again, and went back to prison.
32. While serving his last sentence, he was encouraged to reflect deeply. He worked with CARE Network agencies, and they supported him.
33. Various partners from the CARE Network supported him.
34. The Yellow Ribbon Fund awarded him the Star Bursary Award, for him to do a diploma in veterinary technology at Temasek Polytechnic.
35. SANA subsidised his tattoo removal.
36. ISCOS subsidised his driving lessons.
37. Today, Naresh leads a crime-free life and is contributing back to society.
38. He has been employed for more than two years in the animal care industry, which is growing and needs people.
39. In his free time, he volunteers as an Equestrian Assistant at the Riding for the Disabled Association of Singapore. He also volunteers at a halfway house, as a befriender to ex-offenders, to help them move on with their lives.
40. It is stories like these, that showcase what CARE Network does and what real difference it makes to people’s lives.
Partnership with Private Sector, and Uniqlo
41. We also need the support of the private sector.
42. A number of companies have set up business operations in Prisons under the Private Partnership Scheme, to give work and training opportunities to our inmates.
43. For example, John (not his real name) is one person who has benefitted.
44. Before he went to prison, he was a car salesman.
45. When he was in prison, he did a work-training programme at a food workshop, run by a private company.
46. This was new to him. But after his hands-on training, “John” picked up new skills, cooking skills, kitchen skills.
47. He learned to run the daily operations of the workshop, and was eventually one of the inmates put in charge at the workshop.
48. After he was released, he was hired as a sales executive by the company. He is still working there today, and he enjoys what he does.
49. The Private Partnership Scheme opened doors for John and helped him become the desistor he is today. He is working at the company which gave him the training when he was in prison.
50. And more companies are coming onboard. Today we will be announcing a new partnership between Uniqlo and Yellow Ribbon Singapore.
51. Under this partnership, members of public can donate their pre-loved used Uniqlo clothing at Uniqlo stores. The Yellow Ribbon Industries, which is a subsidiary of YRSG which also hires ex-offenders, helps to process the donated clothes. Uniqlo then distributes the cleaned clothes to vulnerable communities in Singapore and worldwide.
52. Today, residents from Selarang Halfway House and Rise Above Halfway House who need a new set of clothes for release, can also receive them.
53. That is a good initiative.
54. Ex-offenders are not passive recipients of help. Through initiatives like these, they also give back to society.
55. I wish to thank Uniqlo and our other partners from the private sector.
56. The process of helping ex-inmates to turn around their lives and integrate back into the community is not an easy journey, but I think most or all of you will agree it is among the most meaningful things that we can do as a people, as a society, to help them rebuild their family lives, and rebuild their own lives.
57. I wish to thank all of you for your support, and I wish you a fruitful seminar. Thank you.