“Despite an increase in the number of employers registered with the Singapore Corporation of Rehabilitative Enterprises (SCORE), relatively fewer prison inmates secured a job before their release last year” (Fewer Inmates Land Jobs Before Release, As Recidivism Increases, Robin Choo).
The rate of recidivism has increased (TODAY, Jan. 24) – the highest rate since 2003, according to the figures released by the Singapore Prison Service (SPS) – and with more inmates relapsing into criminal behaviour, questions should be asked of the rehabilitation and aftercare service provided. The phenomenon has unfortunately persisted, despite efforts by the SPS, the Singapore Corporation of Rehabilitative Enterprises (SCORE), as well as the Yellow Ribbon Project to facilitate training and reintegration. In this vein Member of Parliament Denise Phua could be right that the period of rehabilitation “may have to be strengthened and lengthened as this is the period where re-offence is most probable”.
How though? The rate of recidivism was 23.3 per cent for inmates released in 2010, 27 per cent in 2011, and 27.5 per cent in 2012. A four per cent increase, in other words. It should however be noted that fewer persons have been sent to prison in the same period, which could account for a lower absolute increase in the number of re-offenders.
Be that as it may, the SPS and parliamentarians should take a harder look at the profile at these re-offenders, before determining the efficacy of present measures and the crimes which deserve more attention. Do former prisoners commit other offences or lapse back into the same criminal behaviour – and if the latter is more prevalent, what are these types of crimes? Based on demographics and socio-economic backgrounds, which individuals are more likely to be incarcerated again? And beyond these quantitative analyses, what do qualitative exchanges with these inmates yield? Are there trends in their narratives or struggles?
They may be some who insist that prisons are meant for punishment and deterrence, though these opponents would be hard-pressed to disagree that the focus on education and rehabilitation is especially helpful for the disenfranchised. These benefits are shared by everyone. The fact that more Singapore employers are now registered with SCORE – a rise from 3,876 in 2013 to 4,433 in 2014 – reflects a commitment towards this cause.
We could take solace that our criminal recidivism rate is lower vis-à-vis other countries. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime reported in 2012 that rates could each 70 per cent or more, and that reoffending rates also topped 70 per cent in some prisons within the United Kingdom. Yet if we continued our focus on preventative (to understand and address the reasons for recidivism) and reactive (to help those who have relapsed) recommendations, we could perhaps match the best countries in the world (20 per cent in Norway, for example).
A version of this article was published in TODAY.