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Rate of recidivism on the rise

SINGAPORE — The proportion of former convicts returning to prison after two years has been growing over the years.

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SINGAPORE — The proportion of former convicts returning to prison after two years has been growing over the years.

According to statistics released by the Singapore Prison Service (SPS) yesterday, the overall two-year recidivism rate of 27.4 per cent for inmates released in 2011 was the highest in at least eight years.

The latest numbers also show that three in 10 drug abusers released in 2011 from drug rehabilitation centres went back to their old habits, continuing an upward trend since 2009, when 27.1 per cent of released abusers were convicted.

The trends come as more employers are being brought on board by the Singapore Corporation of Rehabilitative Enterprises (SCORE) to provide ex-offenders with job opportunities, and as more community effort is being shored up to help former inmates reintegrate into society.

In response to media queries, the SPS said it recognised that recidivism rates had increased slightly this year.

“Recidivism rates fluctuate on a yearly basis and are dependent on various factors, such as the willingness of the inmate to change and community/family support. The profile of each release cohort can also vary year to year,” the SPS said.

It added that it would continue to monitor the situation closely and remained committed to preventing re-offending.

Although the recidivism rate had dropped significantly on the whole, from 44.4 per cent in 1998 to 23.7 per cent in 2004, it increased to 27.3 per cent in 2008 and fell to 26.7 per cent in 2009, before hitting an all-time low of 23.6 per cent in 2010.

Later this year, amendments to the Prisons Act will kick in to effect a Conditional Remission System and a Mandatory Aftercare Scheme to deter re-offending.

The courts will be empowered to send former prisoners who have been released at the two-thirds mark of their term for good conduct, back to jail for the remaining portion of their remission period if they commit a new offence during the period.

Former inmates who need more support reintegrating will also be placed in a halfway house or on home supervision upon release.

Last year, 3,876 employers were registered with SCORE, up from 2,118 in 2009, and the number of inmates who attended employability skills training increased by 16 per cent between 2011 and last year. As a result, the number of inmates who secured jobs prior to their release last year rose for the fourth consecutive year to 2,114, up 23.8 per cent from 2012.

The Yellow Ribbon Community Project also saw more trained volunteers reaching out to families of pre-release inmates.

Halfway houses and voluntary welfare organisations involved in reintegration noted that efforts to reintegrate former convicts into society were a work in progress, but they appeared to be paying off.

Singapore After-Care Association Director Prem Kumar said Singapore’s low recidivism rates were difficult to maintain and he expected them to fluctuate, but pointed out what he thought was essential to reintegration.

“Perhaps the key to successful reintegration is the role and the support of the immediate family. I think for all of us, the immediate family is the bedrock of support and then it extends out to relatives, friends and the community,” said Mr Kumar.

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