Ministry of Home Affairs Committee of Supply Debate 2017, “Keeping Singapore Drug-Free Together” - Speech by Mr Amrin Amin, Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs

Published: 03 March 2017

Madam Chair,


2. I thank Members for their support for the Home Team's work and I will speak on two areas. The first, the scourge of drugs and the second, the rehabilitation and reintegration of ex-offenders.


Overview of Drug Situation


3. Mr Christopher de Souza asked about our drug situation and the strategies to combat this threat.   


4. The overall drug abuse situation in Singapore is under control. In 2016, there was a 3% drop in the number of drug abusers arrested compared to 2015. But there are areas of concern. Close to two-thirds of the new drug abusers arrested were below the age of 30. We are also seeing more cases of students abusing drugs. Therefore we cannot take our foot off the pedal in the fight against drugs.   


5. Even with our tough drug laws and active enforcement, we remain vulnerable to the global and regional drug trade. Minister Shanmugam highlighted the situation in the Golden Triangle, as well as the cross-border drug syndicate activities.


6. We must continue to strengthen our enforcement efforts and regional cooperation. CNB works closely with its foreign partners to target syndicates which attempt to supply drugs to Singapore. For example, last December, CNB and the Malaysian Narcotics Crime Investigation Department (NCID) coordinated operations to successfully nab an elusive Malaysian and his associates, who were supplying a sizeable amount of drugs to Singapore.


7. At the same time, we need to do more to reduce demand and step up preventive drug education, so that Singaporeans) know the dangers of drugs.


A Community Approach to Youth Drug Abuse


8. Dr Tan Wu Meng highlighted the growing movement overseas to sugar-coat the drug problem.  


9. Our youths are not immune from this influence. On the Internet, our youths see drugs being glamourised. They read about the legalisation of cannabis overseas and they hear that drugs like cannabis are less harmful and addictive.   


10. But this is not true. A review conducted by experts at Singapore's Institute of Mental Health found that cannabis is both harmful and addictive. Chronic exposure to cannabis during adolescence is linked to a lower IQ and possibly irreversible decline in cognitive performance lasting into adulthood. The World Health Organisation has also compiled research which found that regular cannabis users were more likely to take other drugs like heroin and cocaine.


11. To better engage youths and extend their outreach, CNB has developed a multi-pronged strategy.   


12. First, CNB has been increasing their social media presence. They have produced videos to convey accurate information on the harms of drugs. These are shared online as well as during drug prevention talks and roadshows.


13. Second, CNB is piloting a new initiative to establish positive "influencers" in peer circles. Youths from ITEs, polytechnics and universities have signed up for the pilot of an Anti-Drug Advocate (ADA) Programme. These youths will learn about the harmful effects of drugs and Singapore's drug policies. They will visit Halfway Houses and drug rehabilitation centres (DRCs), hearing first-hand accounts from ex-abusers how hard it is to kick the drug habit. These youths will see what is really at stake if they try drugs. We hope the experience will encourage them to start their own initiatives to spread the anti-drug message to their friends.


14. We need more people to step forward to spread the anti-drug message. Prevention is the first line of defence. A key part of the battle is won if we can keep people away from drugs.


Tackling Re-offending, Stopping the Vicious Cycle


15. However, once someone starts to abuse drugs, we must help them to stop. It is vital that we curb the vicious cycle of re-offending and prevent the spread of drugs to non-abusers.  


16. Last year, CNB arrested a man for drug trafficking. He mixed with bad company, picked up drugs, and never successfully quit. What happened next was worse. He taught his two young sons, aged 19 and 20, to smoke "ice". He got them addicted and even supplied their habit.   


17. We share Dr Tan Wu Meng's concern on the impact of drug abuse on the family. If we do not succeed in rehabilitating offenders, their families, including their children, may end up becoming victims or offenders. Curbing inter-generational offending starts upstream and this applies to both drug abuse and crime. This is an area which we are concerned about and we are working with other agencies to better understand and tackle.   


18. The rehabilitation process starts upon admission. Inmates are assessed for their risks of re-offending and severity of drug use. Depending on risk-levels, inmates undergo different programmes which address criminal thinking and addiction issues. They also undergo family support programmes, religious programmes and skills training. To ease their transition back into the community, they can be emplaced in a Halfway House or on home detention. Under the Day Release Scheme introduced last year, first-time lower-risk inmates can also go out to work and study during the day. We hope these measures help inmates better reintegrate into society.   


19. Mr Louis Ng asked about the role of family support in rehabilitation. Indeed, this is one of the key factors that motivate ex-offenders to rebuild their lives and to keep themselves away from re-offending.    


20. SPS partners with Fei Yue Family Services and Lakeside Family Services to provide structured family programmes for inmates - workshops to help better understand the impact of their crimes on their families, and build up their parenting and communication skills.


21. The Prison Service also works with community partners like the Salvation Army to conduct family sessions in prison. During these sessions, family members are allowed to enter prison to spend time with the inmates. They are designed to encourage bonding between inmates and their children. They serve as powerful reminders to inmates that they need to turn their lives around. These family sessions are also held during special occasions such as Mothers' Day, Fathers' Day and Children's Day.  


22. Other than helping the inmate, Prison Service also helps their families. The grassroots-led Yellow Ribbon Community Project (YRCP) was established to help the families and children of inmates cope, by connecting them to the national social support networks. YRCP has assisted more than 5,000 families.   


23. We recognise that family ties are vital to the inmate's rehabilitation. Family support is especially important after the inmate's release. Thus, the community's long-term involvement is vital to ensure continuity in these efforts.


Employment of Ex-offenders


24. Besides family support, employment is another critical factor for successful reintegration. Employment provides the ex-offenders with a sense of purpose, and income to help meet their family's needs.   


25. The Singapore Corporation of Rehabilitative Enterprises (SCORE), its partners, and employers play key roles by providing training and job opportunities for inmates.   


26. Mr Tan Wu Meng and Mr Leon Perera asked about skills training for offenders during and after incarceration. SPS and SCORE conduct training programmes that are aligned with the WSQ framework. This year, SCORE will commence the WSQ Advanced Training for inmates during incarceration. Courses include the Certified Operations Professionals training where inmates are trained to be operations professionals in the manufacturing industry, or technical supervisors in other industries.   


27. Completing these courses also helps inmates to pursue WSQ Diploma courses upon their release. To keep up with increased automation in our workplaces, SCORE will introduce courses for inmates on the use of workplace smart devices such as tablets. These skills will help inmates be more competitive when they join the workforce upon their release.   


28. SPS and SCORE work together with agencies such as Workforce Singapore to fund these courses for inmates.  


29. The combination of training and employer support have helped many inmates re-enter the workforce. Over the last three years, more than 95% of inmates referred to SCORE successfully secured jobs before their release.  


30. Inmates can use their SkillsFuture credits during their stay at Halfway Houses or after their release. SCORE informs inmates about the SkillsFuture programme, and works with Halfway House operators to encourage residents to attend courses.  


31. In 2016, SCORE also worked with employers to pilot a new initiative, where ex-offenders are sent for further skills upgrading if they perform well at work. So far, more than 260 ex-offenders have benefitted from this.   


32. Through the multiple rehabilitation programmes, we help inmates and their families cope with difficult situation.


Partnerships with the Malay-Muslim Community [To be delivered in Malay Language]


33. Ms Rahayu Mahzam asked about our partnerships with Malay-Muslim organisations to tackle offending, re-offending and drug abuse. Madam Chair, I will now speak in Malay.  

Partnerships with the Malay-Muslim Community


34. MHA bekerjasama rapat dengan masyarakat Melayu/Islam untuk menangani isu pesalah dan pesalah bentan. Kami telah mencapai kemajuan yang baik sejak beberapa tahun kebelakangan ini.


35. Saya amat bangga dengan kemajuan yang ditunjukkan oleh masyarakat Melayu/Islam kita. Sokongan padu sukarelawan Melayu/Islam kita amat penting untuk membantu bekas pesalah kita memulakan hidup baru. Ramai di kalangan anggota masyarakat kita telah tampil ke hadapan untuk sama-sama memainkan peranan mereka untuk menyokong usaha pemulihan dan integrasi semula pesalah dan pesalah bentan.


36. Sebagai contoh, pihak Penjara bekerjasama rapat dengan Angkatan Karyawan Islam (AMP) dalam melaksanakan satu program pemulihan bagi pesalah Islam. Ini termasuk program-program berunsur keagamaan, kekeluargaan dan pengurusan kewangan semasa mereka menjalani hukuman penjara, dan program-program berkaitan perkhidmatan pengurusan kes dan sokongan keluarga selepas mereka dibebaskan. Fasa perintis program ini akan dikendalikan dengan lebih kurang 100 pesalah dadah tahun ini.


37. MHA juga sedang bekerjasama dengan Persatuan Pemudi Islam Singapura (PPIS) untuk meningkatkan usaha pendidikan pencegahan dadah di kalangan masyarakat. Di bawah inisiatif ini, PPIS akan membantu menyebarkan mesej anti-dadah kepada klien-klien mereka yang sedang menjalani program-program sokongan.


38. PERGAS juga mengongsi kebimbangan kita tentang kesalahan dadah. Baru-baru ini, mereka bertemu pesalah dadah muda semasa program perintis Insan Mukmin. PERGAS amat bimbang bahawa para belia kita tidak mempunyai kesedaran tentang kemudaratan dadah, dan tentang bagaimana penyalahgunaan dadah bertentangan dengan ajaran Islam. Mereka beritahu saya bahawa mereka merancang untuk melancarkan kempen untuk meningkatkan kesedaran tentang masalah ini.


39. Saya ingin menggalakkan lebih ramai anggota masyarakat kita untuk sama-sama menyokong usahapasukan Home Team untuk mengurangkan kadar pesalah dan pesalah bentan.




40. Madam Chair, to conclude, the Home Team is committed to achieve a drug-free Singapore. We will increase our efforts to rehabilitate and reintegrate ex-offenders. We will partner the community to safeguard the safety and security of Singapore. 


41. Thank you.


Prisons Management and Rehabilitation