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MHA proposes new employment scheme for inmates to get skills training, education outside prison

SINGAPORE — Inmates could soon undergo skills training and education in the community before they finish serving their sentences, as part of proposed amendments to the law governing prisons here which were tabled in Parliament on Monday (Nov 1).

MHA proposes new employment scheme for inmates to get skills training, education outside prison
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  • Draft amendments to the Prisons Act, if passed, will allow inmates to leave prison at the tail end of their sentences to attend classes or skills training
  • They are currently only allowed to leave for work under certain conditions
  • The new Employment Preparation Scheme will also permit inmates who make good progress to return home on weekends or daily
  • Other key proposed amendments include redacting or withholding inmates’ correspondence that may affect the security or good order of prisons

 

SINGAPORE — Inmates could soon undergo skills training and education in the community before they finish serving their sentences, as part of proposed amendments to the law governing prisons here which were tabled in Parliament on Monday (Nov 1).

Those who show good progress can also eventually return to their homes during the weekends — or even daily — after work, educational classes or skills training.

Currently, under the Work Release Scheme that was introduced in 1985, suitable inmates are only allowed to be released from prison for work. This happens at the tail end of their sentence and is aimed at better preparing inmates to deal with work after their release.

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) is now proposing to replace this with the Employment Preparation Scheme. In a news release, it said that skills training and education will help inmates to secure jobs after their release by enhancing their employability.

MHA is also tabling some amendments aimed at improving the Singapore Prison Service’s (SPS) security and operations.

The Prisons (Amendment) Bill was tabled for the first reading in Parliament on Monday.

MHA gave more details on what the Employment Preparation Scheme would entail, if the Bill is passed:

  • Eligible inmates will be assessed by SPS for their suitability, including their progress and response to rehabilitation, before an independent advisory committee appointed by Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam reviews the cases

  • The committee will make its recommendations to the Commissioner of Prisons, who can then place inmates on the scheme

  • Inmates can be placed on the scheme, which comprises three phases, towards the end of their sentence

  • They will first undergo the in-camp phase during which they can work, train or pursue their education outside prison during the day, before returning to a work release centre in the evening

  • Those who show good progress during the first phase will be allowed to move on to the weekend home leave phase, where they can return to their place of residence during the weekends

  • In the final long home leave phase, inmates can return to their residence daily after work, educational classes or skills training

  • They will be subject to conditions such as electronic monitoring, and those who breach the conditions can be recalled to prison pending an inquiry into the breach or be taken off the scheme

Here are the other key proposed amendments:

Defer inmate’s release to carry out outstanding punishment

  • The Commissioner of Prisons could defer an inmate’s release by up to 21 days, instead of the current 14 days, to carry out any outstanding punishment ordered by the courts — primarily caning

  • MHA said that this is because currently, caning cannot be carried out until the expiration of the 14-day grace period for an inmate to file a notice of appeal against their conviction and sentence

  • Even if no notice of appeal is filed, the SPS can only carry out caning after the 14-day period, which means they have to get a court order to extend the inmate’s detention

  • The proposed amendment will allow SPS to do away with seeking such a court order

Redact or withhold inmates’ correspondence

  • The Home Affairs Minister could make regulations to redact or withhold inmates’ correspondence which may affect the security or good order of prisons, or incite the commission of any offence

  • These could be drawings that show an escape plan from prison, coded messages for starting a prison disturbance, or instigating inmates to riot or harm another inmate or person

Require undertakings

  • The minister could make regulations to require prescribed persons to give an undertaking not to publish or disseminate any information in any communication with an inmate, which could similarly affect the security or good order of prisons, or incite offences

  • There are currently no restrictions on whether someone can publish or disseminate information obtained when communicating with an inmate

Make explicit the protection for prison officers

  • Prison officers and authorised auxiliary police officers could be explicitly given protection from liability for acts and omissions done in “good faith and with reasonable care”

  • These officers currently rely on the defence of necessity under common law, and the amendment would be in line with what is provided for officers from the Singapore Police Force, Central Narcotics Bureau and Singapore Civil Defence Force

  • MHA said that officers are not exempt from the ordinary process of law if they are found to be criminally negligent or have abused their powers

Related topics

prison rehabilitation recidivism

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