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Singapore's correctional system is entrusted to Singapore Prison Services, which is a state agency that runs 14 drug rehabilitation centers and prisons in Singapore. It falls under the direct management of the Ministry of Home Affairs. The first cluster of Changi Prison Complex, complete with maximum security, was established in August 2004 together with the Singapore Prison Service’s mission and vision statements. The professor of Criminal Justice at Sam Houston State University, Mitchel P. Roth hypothesized that the convoluted security systems in place “have made it one of the world’s most secure prison institutions” (303). Its Rehabilitation Framework constructs a model for criminal reformation. The Framework develops a structured and rational approach for all rehabilitation efforts and guarantees that limited resources are optimized by allocating programs designed on risks and needs. It dictates inmates to maximize reintegration potential through the creation of social ties and the development of programs aimed at improving offenders’ attitudes and skills. It also strives at ensuring aftercare support for ex-criminals through their complete support in the community.
Aftercare programs get a close cooperation of other government organizations and community partners. It is difficult to overestimate the importance of rehabilitation, which begins from the time offenders first go to prison and continues even after their release. The Singapore Prison Service’s Rehabilitation Framework contains three distinct phases, including, In-Care, Halfway Care and Aftercare. In the In-Care Phase, offenders are enrolled in rehabilitation programs which address condemnable risks and needs. Formal prison programming strives at encouraging the offenders by changing their beliefs and values, motivation levels and condemnable needs. In the Treatment Stage, offenders are equipped with relevant skills and knowledge to enhance their reintegration potential. Prison counselors and psychologists have developed a suite of Specialized Treatment Programs for targeting risks such as sexual offending, substance abuse, violent behavior and criminal thinking. Specialized Treatment Programs can be delivered either in groups or individually. The main aim of these programs is to strengthen offenders’ motivation for further improvement, help them realize the roots of their offending behavior and equip them with a whole set of skills to avoid relapse. Lastly, Work, Vocational Training and Employment help heavily in preparing the offender for post-release employment even while he is still serving his time. Moreover, the offender can get a job even before he or she is released.
In addition to job opportunities, the Singapore Prison Service gives prominence to education, which is an effective transformational tool, especially for younger offenders. Run like a regular school, the Prison School gives an excellent chance of receiving formal education to over 500 young inmates each year. There, they heat interesting lectures and study for both junior and senior high-school diplomas. In order to keep family ties intact, and also ensure that family relationships still exist, the Singapore Prison Service constantly engages families of the incarcerated in a plenty of ways. Koetting and Schiraldi conclude that such measures will “help families cope better with a member’s incarceration and, ultimately, to build supportive family networks for offenders to return to upon release” (40). They also add that “the best rehabilitation regime during incarceration is of no use if ex-offenders find themselves rejected at every turn when they are released into the larger community” (53). It is a sad fact that the majority of ex-offenders have to carry a social stigma of having served time behind bars.
Almost invariably, they are discriminated, excluded from society, and, as a rule, looked down upon. Due to numerous personal reasons, some of the criminals will return to crime inflicting harm to surrounding people, then will get arrested again, and repeat the cycle. Rehabilitation and preparing the inmate is only the first recovery phase. Other stages include the willingness of wider community to accept released prisoners that are ready and eager to live law abiding lives. In other words, any correctional service aiming to reduce reoffending has to expend considerable efforts at preparing the community to receive the prisoners that are about to release.
When someone breaks the law, commits a crime, does a harm, he or she would usually be caught by the Police, prosecuted, tried and, if found guilty, convicted and sent to prison. Not only will the criminal suffer from wrongdoing, but the entire prisoner’s family, as well. In many countries, the inconvenience and difficulties of travelling to prisons for face-to face visits act as a commonly-cited deterrent to regular family visiting. Although distances are small in Singapore, the Singapore Prison Service still resorts to the use of video conference rooms so that prison visitation would seem an entirely painless procedure.
The Singapore Prison Service uses Community-based rehabilitation to smooth the transition of perpetrators from an institutional setting back into a communal one. Instead of directly releasing a perpetrator who, due to the long-term imprisonment, often has a limited support in the community, the Singapore Prison Service resorts to several Halfway Care patterns to effect a more successful reentry. This provides an offender with a favorable opportunity to apply the skills and knowledge learnt in prison in a normalized environment. This pattern suggests offenders who have neither opportunity to enlist the help and support of their families, nor homes to return to, but who are, after all, willing to stay crime-free, a different way of serving their sentences in the community.
The Singapore Prison Service has emplaced 26,000 offenders on various Community-based rehabilitation schemes. Completion rates have been consistently high, at about 96%. Offenders who take the right decision of recoursing to community-based rehabilitation tend to have no problems with crimes compared to those who do not participate. Ang and Huan claim that in Singapore, “community-based rehabilitation not only frees up prison capacity, but also encourages lower recidivism” (895-905).
Despite the positive moments achieved so far by SPS, this correctional system exhibits some downfalls. Beaumont highlighted the following shortcomings:
In the newly renovated Changi prison, the prison that houses almost all the inmates in Singapore, the inmates sleep on hard concrete floor with no proper beds. They are only given a very thin straw mat, locked in a small cell 23 hours a day and get no outdoor exercises. There are no fans or air conditioning despite the country's extreme heat (30-40 degree Celsius in the cells) and humidity, being near the equator. The inmates basically are allowed zero personal belongings except few soft cover books. Telephones are not allowed and they can only write 1 or 2 letters every fortnight. Inmates are not allowed to keep photographs of their family. (298-316)
Presently, about 12,000 men and women are imprisoned in Singapore. A high imprisonment rate (at about 250 per 100,000 population) affirms Singapore’s tough crime situation. However, the inmate population went into gradual decline after being at height of more than 18,000 in 2002. In addition, a considerable improvement in the recidivism rate has been witnessed, which sounds much more encouragingly. Serving time should never be a waste of time. The period of incarceration allows the Singapore Prison Service an opportunity to work at reforming lives, instilling some sense into the inmates, at showing them that crime does not pay, teaching them a marketable skill, giving them an education as well as helping them to have another shot at life. The Singapore Prison Service does all this with one end in mind – to increase the chances of every prisoner willing to stop committing crimes start a completely new life in a wider community.