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Definitions and Scope

Target Population

Ex-offenders and their families including their parents, spouse, and children.

Convicted Penal Inmate Population (2016)*

Convicted Penal Admissions (2016)

Total Convicted Penal Population


Total Convicted Penal Admissions
















Age Group

Below 21


Age Group

Below 21


21 – 30


21 – 30


31 – 40


31 – 40


41 – 50


41 – 50


51 – 60


51 – 60


Above 60


Above 60




Education Level

No education


Education Level

No education


















Tertiary and above


Tertiary and above


  • Note: Given the significant number of penal admissions within the same calendar year, we might assume that the penal inmate population should be higher. However, there is likelihood that the penal admissions are short-term sentences; thus figure reflected under penal admissions is not “additive” of the inmate population. There is no breakdown given for length of prison term, so if someone has been incarcerated for three months in 2016, before the end of year, they would not be counted under the inmate population. We also need to factor in the convicted penal release figures.

Client segments and subgroups (main offence gruops)

Convicted Penal Inmate Population (2016)

Convicted Penal Admissions (2016)

Crimes against person


Crimes against person


Property crimes


Property crimes


Commercial crimes


Commercial crimes


Drug offences


Drug offences


Immigration offences


Immigration offences


Crime against public order


Crime against public order


Customs offences


Customs offences


Traffic offences


Traffic offences


Other offences


Other offences


Population of ex-offenders

Convicted Penal Release (2016)**







** Data taken from: https://data.gov.sg/dataset/convicted-penal-release

[Ex-offender profiles and segments?]

[How many of incarcerated population have family members that need support?]

Ideal Outcomes

Successful re-integration of ex-offender into society (family, employment, community)

Factors identified as key to successful reintegration of offenders into society [1]

See also here [2]

[What is the meaning of successful reintegration?]

Indicative Size of the Problem

In 2012 there are total of 9,901 Convicted Penal Population, out of which 9,077 are male. 6,287 are drug offences. Total DRC population is 1,503 of which 1,225 are males in 2012.Singapore Prisons

The recidivism rate for drug offenders are higher than the overall recidivism rate, suggesting that recovery is a greater challenge for ex-offenders with drug abuse issues.

• Overall Recidivism Rate: 25.9% (for 2013 release cohort), 26.5% (for 2014 release cohort).[1]

• Recidivism Rate for Drug Rehabilitation Centres (DRC) Offenders: 31.9% (for 2013 release cohort), 30.1% (for 2014 release cohort).[2]

• 70% of inmates are those convicted of drug-related offences or admitted to DRCs for drug abuse and addiction.

Singapore Prisons

-The increase in the number of young drug abusers is of concern. Those in the 20 to 29 age group continue to form the largest group of abusers detected, at about 41%. Last year, close to two-thirds of new drug abusers arrested were under the age of 30. A survey conducted by the National Council Against Drug Abuse (NCADA) last year found that young people below the age of 30 were more open-minded towards drugs, as compared to three years ago. We have also seen a 16% increase in the number of new cannabis abusers arrested last year (Minister Desmond Lee speech at SANA 24 Mar 2017).

Policy Context

Criminalization of drug use and Singapore’s zero-tolerance policy

Long-term imprisonment of drug abusers: From 1 August 2007, first and second-time abusers of cannabis and cocaine will undergo a rehabilitation regime in Drug Rehabilitation Centres (DRCs). Recalcitrant abusers who are arrested for the third time or more for consumption of these drugs will face a Long-Term (LT) imprisonment regime. This is similar to the current approach taken for abusers of opiates, buprenorphine and synthetic drugs. Under the LT imprisonment regime, third-time abusers will be liable for Long Term Imprisonment 1 (LT1), and could face a minimum sentence of 5 years’ imprisonment and 3 strokes of the cane and a maximum sentence of 7 years’ imprisonment and 6 strokes of the cane if convicted. Those who relapse upon their release from LT1 will be sentenced to a minimum of 7 years and a maximum of 13 years’ imprisonment, as well as a minimum of 6 and a maximum of 12 strokes of the cane under LT2.Singapore Prisons

The zero-tolerance policy on drug use has been a useful deterrence, but the criminalization of drug use also has negative consequences worth considering carefully. VWO practitioners expressed concern that the deterrence model and rehabilitation model (medicalization/disease model) may work counter against each other. An addictions therapist noted that when their clients relapse, they are ethically bound to report to CNB, who will then have to decide on a case by case basis whether to send them back to prison. As she puts it, “prisons don’t like the medical model; if addiction affects the brain, then whatever I do is not my fault.” She also noted that it took some time before Prisons started to recognize that drug recovery is a life-long process.

There is also the spectre of the possible criminologic effect of incarceration, and as one VWO practitioner puts it, “I find sometimes prison environment is very toxic.” While more evidence is required, the US has started to realize that keeping low level drug offenders in prison hurts kids[3] This raises the question of whether mandatory minimum sentences for low level, nonviolent drug offenders are necessary. One ex-offender said he continues to feel great bitterness that he had been treated “like a serious criminal” for taking Marijuana.

Mr Christopher de Souza, who chairs the Government Parliamentary Committee for Home Affairs and Law: "To decriminalise the recreational consumption of cannabis is a foolish proposal. It entrenches a higher tolerance for drugs in community." (ST 21 Feb 2016)

Singapore's approach

We need to tackle these challenges in a comprehensive manner. We do this through a robust harm prevention strategy, comprising:(Minister Desmond Lee speech at SANA 24 Mar 2017).

1 Upstream prevention to educate the public, especially children and young people, about the real danger of drugs.

2 Tough laws and robust enforcement against traffickers and drug offenders

3 Structured, mandatory rehabilitation to help abusers kick the habit and regain control over their mind and body.

Task Force on Youths and Drugs was convened 2015, and was chaired by Minister Masagos. "The Task Force announced its recommendations in June this year. One of the recommendations is to set up an Anti-drug Abuse Advocacy Network. Through the Network, we will build a community of advocates against drug abuse, who will strengthen Singaporean’s support for our zero-tolerance stance against drugs. SANA has been a very important partner in our fight against drugs and I look forward to SANA supporting and joining the Network as an advocate for the anti-drug cause" (Amrin Amin speech, Parliamentary Secretary of MHA at SANA 6 Nov 2015)

Preliminary Problem Definition

[Compare existing circumstances to desired outcomes in order to determine a general sense of the shortfall]

Recidivism rates

In Chan and Boer (2016), recidivism rate has remain largely unchanged over the past decade.

Penal system overemphasize incapacitation/deterrence at the expense of reformation?

In-care system work at cross purposes with After-care services?

Over-criminalising drug use?

Should drug use and addiction a medical problem or a criminal issue? Casual drug users more harmed than helped?

80% of prison population are male drug offenders, and these are typically from minority ethnic groups

Unintended consequences of further marginalising ethnic minorities? System of social service delivery marked by race boundaries or religious interests?

Elitist approach to social investments

Overly privileges performance, and disproportionately allocates resources to grooming those most likely to succeed. Society is as much the problem as the solution - Employers may turn away ex-offenders, thinking it is the responsibility of other bigger firms to hire “vulnerable groups”. Neighbours who notice family problems next door may call the Family Service Centre or police, but fail to consider befriending the troubled family themselves. Whether they are conscious or not, such attitudes send a message that marginalised individuals are always “someone else’s problem”. The reintegration of ex-offenders should thus start with a reflection on the kind of society we have come to accept as normal. (See CNA Commentary 16 Sep 2017)

Ex-Offender Needs

Public Education and Information

Need for timely and accessible information about the criminal justice and prisons system

Family members experience uncertainty from time of arrest (especially for first time offenders) and need timely information to make critical decisions.

Offenders require information on reintegration upon release

Existing Resources

Prisons website

AGC website

Gaps and Their Causes Accessibility of info:

-Online resources may be limited only to individuals who are digitally savvy?

Quality of info:

-Adequate info on family visit times, procedures, VWO services for referrals

-Little or no information for families of incarcerated on what to expect from point of arrest to sentencing and incarceration. Eg whether bail is possible, how long each stage is

Possible Solutions Enhanced throughcare for Family Resource Centre to brief families on typical procedures and stages as part of their casework

Trained volunteers to accompany spouse and/or children during first visit to prison – possible info resource

Need for public awareness and acceptance of ex-offenders and their families

Ex-offenders and their spouses may encounter stigma and stereotyping

Existing Resources Yellow Ribbon Campaign

Gaps and Their Causes 97% of persons surveyed know about the Yellow Ribbon, over 350,000 participated in events, and ten-fold increase in the number of prisons volunteers since 2000 (SCORE Survey).

Stigma and stereotypes may be hard to change, despite increasing awareness of Yellow Ribbon projects. [knowledge gap]

Stigma faced by family members of the incarcerated are “hidden victims of crime”

Possible Solutions


Need for Family Preservation and Strengthening

Families need to cope with grief and temporary loss of incarcerated family member

Important to maintaining contact during incarceration to preserve family ties

TODAY, 3 July 2009, SACA Director Prem Kumar noted, “A vacuum in the family is created when an offender goes to jail. After a while, the family learns to cope with the absence. But when he returns, there might not be room for him to fit in anymore.”

Existing Resources

Efforts to rekindling familial bonds between inmates and their families [What are these efforts from CARE Network?] (CNA 12 May 2016)

Yellow Ribbon Community Project - to foster and strengthen family relationships through volunteers from grassroots. in 2016 YRCP 2.0 launched to enable volunteers to also focus on supporting: 1) vulnerable children 2) rekindling family bonds 3) pro-social support through befriending (peer group) (See SANA Annual Report 2016)

Fei Yue FRC



-CMF programme

-EAS programme

-“In 2012, SACA started an initiative to ensure that children of newly incarcerated women would be cared for and given the help that they need to cope. In some three-quarters of such cases, grandparents have to step in as caregivers when the mother is jailed. The fathers are often not in the picture – they could be in jail themselves, or the parents could be divorced. Such children need more attention. The risk they face is termed intergenerational offending” (The Straits Times, 18 December 2016) (note: see Iscos fairy godparent programme)


-CMF programme

-Support group

-Family enrichment programme

Salvation Army

-Kids in Play (KIP) programme

Life Community Services

-Friends of Children/ Friends of Youth (FOCY) programme

Wraparound Care (WAC) agencies

Gaps and Their Causes

Little or no services right at the onset of incarceration.

Current casework and counselling tends to be more offender-centric, rather than family-centric.

CMF programme had cases where clients terminated due to loss of contact; little done for families of offenders

Insufficient reach of KIP and FOCY programme – Both Salvation Army and Life Community Services met/ exceeded the client outcomes for FY11. However, the focus is on voluntary clients

Agencies face difficulty in contacting the clients and/or families, hence unable to follow up with intervention

Families could be in denial that they need help despite needing assistance

Possible Solutions

Holistic family case management instead of focus on offenders only

Celebrating Families Parenting skills training program designed for families in which one or both parents are in early stages of recovery from substance addiction and in which there is a high risk for domestic violence and/or child abuse. http://www.nrepp.samhsa.gov/ViewIntervention.aspx?id=100

Parenting Inside Out (PIO) A 12-week voluntary parent management training program for incarcerated parents to assist in improving their interaction with their child and their child's caregiver. http://www.nrepp.samhsa.gov/ViewIntervention.aspx?id=345

InsideOut Dad Designed to help incarcerated fathers improve their parenting skills and develop stronger relationships with their children while in prison and after release. http://www.nrepp.samhsa.gov/ViewIntervention.aspx?id=337

The Creating Lasting Family Connections Fatherhood Program: Family Reintegration (CLFCFP) Designed for fathers, men in fatherlike roles (e.g., mentors), and men who are planning to be fathers. The program was developed to help individuals who are experiencing or are at risk for family dissonance resulting from the individual's physical and/or emotional separation (e.g., incarceration, substance abuse, military service). http://www.nrepp.samhsa.gov/ViewIntervention.aspx?id=324

4-H Life Program for Children with Incarcerated Family Members Consists of three integrated components: parenting skills class, planning meeting and 4-H LIFE Family/Club Meeting. University of Missouri

Need for Child and Youth Development

Existing Resources

Efforts to identify vulnerable children and connecting them with suitable community programmes [What are these efforts from CARE Network?] (CNA 12 May 2016)

Friends of Children and Youth (FOCY): The programme aims to help children of incarcerated parents develop resilience to cope with parental incarceration, and to support their caregivers in caring for them.

FOCY supports children of incarcerated parents through:

  • Basic counselling
  • Home visits
  • Case management
  • Group outings
  • Mentoring
  • Food rations
  • Birthday celebrations
  • Tuition

There are also other initiatives by different social service organisations such as Prison Fellowship Singapore.

Gaps and Their Causes

Most children with incarcerated parents lack the parental figure in their lives to learn from and guide them along. This could come in the form of financial, emotional, and academic support. Although current efforts attempt to rectify these issues such as providing free tutoring and counselling, these initiatives are ultimately small in scale due to a lack in funding and volunteer numbers. At the same time, even with an outside adult figure, the effectiveness remains to be seen as they do not engage with the youths as frequently as their parents would. Furthermore, the volunteers would change occasionally, which may lead to attachment issues and further affect the child's emotional well-being.

Possible Solutions Early Risers A multicomponent, developmentally focused, competency-enhancement program that targets 6- to 12-year-old elementary school students who are at high risk for early development of conduct problems, including substance use. The child-focused component has three parts: summer camp, school year friendship groups, and school support. http://www.nrepp.samhsa.gov/ViewIntervention.aspx?id=304

Youth Mutual Aid Programmes A solution-focused, mutual aid group intervention and to examine the effects of the group on the self-esteem of elementary-age Hispanic children of incarcerated parents when compared to a no-treatment comparison group. (See Springer et al, 2000 Effects of a Solution-Focused Mutual Aid Group for Hispanic Children of Incarcerated Parents)

Equipping Youth to Help One Another (EQUIP) The programme uses guided group interactions to cultivate a climate for change and teach youth social skills, anger management, and moral reasoning. http://www.childtrends.org/?programs=equipping-youth-to-help-one-another-equip


Need for positive peer influence

Existing Resources

Inmate Befrienders

-According to the Singapore Prisons’ Service befriending factsheet, befrienders are meant to provide emotional support to the inmate/ ex-offender client. However, a qualitative study done by the Singapore Aftercare Association (SACA) (study of 15 inmates published Jan 2016) found that inmates wanted more tangible and material forms of help from their befrienders, such as expecting them to secure job opportunities, gathering information required so inmates could secure a rental flat, etc.

Ex-offender Befrienders

-Efforts to befriend ex-inmates and supporting their reintegration into the community [What are these efforts from CARE Network?] (CNA 12 May 2016)

Gaps and Their Causes

Inmate Befrienders

-The SACA study also found that the inmates’/ ex offenders’ befrienders were readily available to them whenever they needed, demonstrating high levels of commitment on the part of the befrienders. One of the befrienders’ main contributions was in improving the clients’ self-esteem and communication skills, thus contributing to developing the soft skills needed for reintegration.

Possible Solutions

Support from other ex-offenders may resonate more because of similar experiences (17 Sep 2017)

Drug Use

Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) - nearly 70 per cent of new drug abusers arrested last year were aged below 30. Also, National Addictions Management Service (Nams), said it dealt with 252 new drug cases last year involving people aged below 30. In 2014, the number was 136. Dr Munidasa Winslow, an addictions specialist, has seen a 20 per cent increase in visits by those aged below 25, seeking help with marijuana and synthetic marijuana, over the past two to three years. Cannabis users tend to be from households of middle or high socio-economic status and do well in school, based on findings released by the Task Force on Youths and Drugs last year. Many have strong parental support, with their parents having no history of drug use. (ST 21 Feb 2016)

Drug rehabilitation (2016)*

Official capacity of adult prisons, penal institutions or correctional institutions


Population of inmates in Drug Rehabilitation Centre (DRC)


Inmates admitted to DRC


Inmates released from DRC

1,220 (949 male, 271 female)

Number of halfway houses in SG

8 (public, listed under SCORE)

Drug abusers by ethnic group

-          Chinese

-          Malay

-          Indian

-          Others






Drug abusers by age

-          Below 20

-          20 – 29

-          30 – 39

-          40 – 49

-          50 – 59

-          60 and above








Recidivism rates for DRC (2014 release cohort)


(Overall recidivism rate is 26.5%, rate for penal convictions is 25.8%)

Other issues possibly faced by ex-offenders at halfway homes include getting medical attention as the cost may deter them


*Source: https://data.gov.sg/search?q=drug

Need to Avoid and Abstain from Drugs

Statistics on drug use http://www.cnb.gov.sg/Libraries/CNB_MediaLibrary_Files/NCADA_Annual_Report_2015_Final.sflb.ashx

Insert table on drug rehabilitation (population of inmates in DRCs, by ethnic group, by age and recidivism)

Existing Resources

1. Drug rehabilitation programmes with residential programmes.

Summary of Singapore Halfway Houses. See link. https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1YAXqyxzV8LKKwAU-fn5fn8npPF4vezd_5fkvxR42N6I/edit?usp=sharing

2. Drug rehabilitation programmes without residential programmes.

Summary of Singapore's Resources for Drug Addiction. To be updated.

National Council Against Drug Abuse www.ncada.org.sg

CNB thinks that preventive education remains its first line of defence. It has produced an anti-drug toolkit for educators and counsellors, and will soon have similar ones for parents and national service commanders (ST 21 Feb 2016).

Gaps and Their Causes

1-More young people are being influenced into thinking that cannabis is a "safe high", said Dr Winslow, when this is not the case. "The Internet and its news and articles are prime sources of information for them," he said. "As more countries legalise marijuana, the perception of it being as safe as alcohol and nicotine grows."Cannabis is often seen as a "gateway drug" that drug abusers start with before moving on to other substances.(ST 21 Feb 2016)

-An active push by many groups, internationally, to legalise, commercialise and market the recreational use of drugs (Minister Desmond Lee speech at SANA 24 Mar 2017).

2-Availability of illicit drugs online. Last year, about 200 people were arrested for buying drugs and drug-related paraphernalia on the internet, compared to just 30 in 2015. Online black market sites allow users to buy drugs anonymously (Minister Desmond Lee speech at SANA 24 Mar 2017).

Possible Solutions Incarceration-based drug treatment http://www.campbellcollaboration.org/lib/project/20/

Moral Reconation Therapy (MRT) Seven basic treatment issues: confrontation of beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors; assessment of current relationships; reinforcement of positive behavior and habits; positive identity formation; enhancement of self-concept; decrease in hedonism and development of frustration tolerance; and development of higher stages of moral reasoning http://www.nrepp.samhsa.gov/ViewIntervention.aspx?id=34

Structured therapeutic community interventions for drug users in the community produced a greater reduction in offending behaviour than standard treatment http://eppi.ioe.ac.uk/cms/Default.aspx?tabid=3362

Drugs: True Stories A multimedia intervention designed to prevent drug use among young people in grades 5-12 by positively changing the attitudes of youth and their parents and other caregivers in regard to the use of drugs. The intervention features a 30-minute video, which includes two vignettes of teenagers telling their personal stories to illustrate the harms associated with drug use, how teenagers and their families can work together to help teenagers abstain from drug use, possibilities for teenagers to recover from drug dependence, and how making smart choices can save lives. http://www.nrepp.samhsa.gov/ViewIntervention.aspx?id=233

Guiding Good Choices (GGC) A drug use prevention program that provides parents of children (9 to 14 years old) with the knowledge and skills needed to guide their children through early adolescence. Video-based vignettes and guide. http://www.nrepp.samhsa.gov/ViewIntervention.aspx?id=302


Employability skills training by SCORE, yearly enrolment (2016)

No. of training places

22,945 (inmates may attend more than one training course)

No. of inmates


Work programmes for vocational and employability skills, # engaged in work (2016)

Average no. of inmates


Academic programmes (2016)

“N” Level


“O” Level


“A” Level


Other courses (e.g. English literacy)


Need for vocational skills and job readiness

Existing Resources

• 2,157 inmates were referred to SCORE in 2015. 2,042 of them managed to secure jobs, accounting for 95 per cent.

• More employers appear to be committed to hiring ex-offenders, with 4,745 employers registered with SCORE in 2015. This is up from 2,872 in 2011. This figure increased to 5,093 in 2016 (7.3 per cent increase).

• While these figures look positive, they highlight the proficiency of SCORE’s programme, rather than successful reintegration of ex-offenders into the workforce on a whole. This is considering that there were 10,807 penal releases in 2015, but only 2,157 inmates referred to SCORE – who are those not referred to SCORE?

Gaps and Their Causes

• It is unknown what SCORE’s capacity is for helping ex-offenders, or if there is an upper threshold.

Possible Solutions

Need for employers to hire

A lot of good work has been done to encourage employers to hire, and there is 96% success rate for the 2,000 inmates referred to SCORE but that still leaves about 7,000 See ST 15 Feb 2017

According to the SCORE Annual Report 2015 (Singapore Corporation of Rehabilitative Enterprises), more inmates are securing jobs before being released from prison. 2,157 inmates were referred to SCORE in 2015. 2,042 of them managed to secure jobs, accounting for 95 per cent.More employers appear to be committed to hiring ex-offenders, with 4,745 employers registered with SCORE in 2015. This is up from 2,872 in 2011. This figure increased to 5,093 in 2016 (7.3 per cent increase).

Existing Resources

Gaps and Their Causes

While SCORE's figures look positive, they highlight the proficiency of SCORE’s programme, rather than successful reintegration of ex-offenders into the workforce on a whole. This is considering that there were 10,807 penal releases in 2015, but only 2,157 inmates referred to SCORE – who are those not referred to SCORE?

Possible Solutions


Need for housing for offenders upon release from prison

Some offenders released from prison have difficulties finding housing and accommodation. Without a stable accommodation, they sleep at public places, parks and beaches, and move from place to place. They are:

1. Ex-offenders with no family support.

2. Ex-offenders who are 'stateless' and do not have families to return to. Without a citizenship and its privileges, they cannot buy or rent an HDB flat and face roadblocks in starting over. Stateless people in Singapore include PRs who have lost their foreign citizenship, kids born to foreign nationals who are not recognised in their home countries, and those born in pre-independence Singapore who have been unable to prove their country of birth. There is no available statistics on the number of stateless ex-offenders although VWOs reported to have assisted a few. The roadblocks in starting over include getting and retaining a legitimate job. When they run out of options, they may get into wrong company and be involved in illegal activities to earn a living. The temporary reprieve was to apply with the Immigration Department for a Certificate of Identity. The CI has to be renewed yearly and it restricts their movement in and out of the country.ST 19 Dec 2016

Existing Resources

1. Halfway Houses

Summary of Singapore Halfway Houses. See link. https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1YAXqyxzV8LKKwAU-fn5fn8npPF4vezd_5fkvxR42N6I/edit?usp=sharing

2. Note: There is a temporary shelter in Yishun. Need source.

Gaps and Their Causes

1. Note: The queue for HDB rental flats is very long. Need source.

Possible Solutions

1. Note: A few HDB block of flats marked for demolition were postponed. They were used as rental flats for the needy. Need source.

Resource Directory

National Council Against Drug Abuse


Singapore Prisons Service


Singapore Corporation of Rehabilitative Enterprises (SCORE)


also secretariat of CARE Network

Industrial & Services Co-Operative Society Ltd (ISCOS)


Community Action for the Rehabilitation of Ex-offenders (CARE) Network


Singapore After-Care Association (SACA)


Singapore Anti-Narcotics Association (SANA)


Care Community Services Society


Offers Case Management for Inmates from Drug Rehabilitation Centres (DRCs) under their 'CARE Prison' Service

New Life Stories


"New Life Stories is a non-profit organisation that aims to prevent intergenerational incarceration"

Singapore Halfway Houses

National Addictions Management Service (Nams)

Teen Challenge


faith based intervention programmes to those struggling with substance abuse and alcohol addictions.

Link to Needs and Gaps Report


  1. Chan, Joyce P. S. and Douglas P. Boer (2016) "Managing Offenders and what Works in Singapore: Ten Reintegration Assessment Predictors (T.R.A.P.)." Safer Communities 15, no.3: 142-159
  2. Chan, Joyce P. S. and Douglas P. Boer (2016) Managing offenders: establishing the impact of incarceration and what works in Singapore Vol. 15, Iss. 1: 33-48