Over the years, there is a stark increase of inmates from 12,645 in 2008 to 16,347 inmates in 2015 of the capacity of prisoners in jail. Interestingly, there is a drastic drop from the number of inmates from 2015 to 13,670 inmates in 2016. In this period of time, there were several organisations and causes which supported ex-convicts to re-integrate back to society easily. There are however two factors which comprise of livelihood and social connections which would determine how well ex-convicts are able to re-integrate back into society. As Ann Jacobs, director of the prisoner re-entry institute of John Jay College of Criminal Justice once said, “A person’s successful re-entry into society can be viewed through how adequately they are able to meet 6 basic life needs: livelihood, residence, family, health, criminal justice compliance and social connections.” This paper summarizes information of a study of ex-prisoner re-integration back into society. This report will address the multitude of challenges that ex-convicts face when re-entering society and look into solutions in hopes of lowering the recidivism rate in Singapore.
Livelihood centres around the source of income of ex-convicts and the jobs and opportunities vacant. Many Well-known company such as SCORE which stands for Singapore Corporation of Rehabilitative Enterprises works towards building a platform to give ex-convicts the opportunity to be employed and eventually re-integrate back into society by providing assistance and equipping them with the right sets of skills and lastly, to encourage society to participate as well. ((optional: An employer is discouraged to recruit ex-convicts as there is a possibility they could get charged for “negligent hiring”.))
This organisation goes the extra mile to help ex-convicts get the mindset they need in adjusting to the workforce sector once released and to also secure jobs for them. There was an accumulating number of inmates who registered with Score even ahead of their release. For instances, there were 4,745 in 2015 followed by 5,093 inmates in 2016. In respect to this, in 2016, 96% of inmates who were referred to SCORE secured a job before their release.
Score implemented a structured training curriculum to allow ex-convicts to be able to experience real-life context of a working environment and equipping them with universal work, trade and directorial techniques applicable in their work lives. To keep them motivated and to cultivate life-long learning attitude, there are levels of certifications based on their progression to eventually build their skills up.
The job scope includes hospitality, Food & Beverages, logistics and manufacturing industries. Examples of qualifications which help them work towards their goal in serving in these sectors would be education in basic culinary skills, multi-media skills and Workforce Skills Qualification (WSQ) in Landscaping. Moreover, they are trained in generic serviceable skills which comprise of Microsoft office, workplace literacy and numeracy and other several components. Counselling by the Vocational Guidance Service is even provided to guide ex-convicts in their respective job prospects as well as to answer queries they might have.
There is an internet platform for companies to source for labour through different sectors. These sectors include business outsourcing, industrial space leasing, catering, bakery and lastly, laundry and linen services. These companies would benefit from cheaper labour and meet their work needs. Most importantly, they make an impact on the lives of ex-convicts by giving them a second chance and working experience which upholds good competence and commitment.
The availability of housing benefits depends on financial status and the quality of family relationships. The time spent in prison could lead to financial insufficiency because of the time spent not working. Most of their families are poverty-stricken especially when the adult in the family or more critically when the sole breadwinner is subjected to time behind bars, leaving the rest of the family members to tend to their financial and social needs. There would be changes of responsibility of each family member and time is needed for adaptation. In the process, it is not easy to make up for the time loss with the ex-convicts’ loved ones. This leads to another problem which is the rejection of ex-convicts returning back home, arising from past experience and hurt which may lead to grudges, tension and even feelings of anger in the family.
Halfway houses are transitional residence that aid offenders through the process of re-integration into society by providing therapeutic arrangements and case management services. This is aimed at ex-convicts who got jailed because of drug related offences or other severe crimes such as rape. There are currently 8 halfway houses working with Singapore Prison Service and shelters.
Loss of contact with relatives during imprisonment could deprive an ex-prisoner of the needed social support when he exits from prison. After release, they would definitely have difficulty keeping up with the fast-paced world we are living in today. Ex-convicts would also feel overwhelmed and lonely as a result of lost friendships and family members. This would eventually lead to depression and worsening of mental health.
Having a healthy family connection is important in how well inmates re-integrate back into society. This is tied down into different factors such as whether the family can make up for the time loss and rekindle the bond in the family. Young children of those who are serving their sentences suffer from lack of attention which lead them in not being able to focus on their studies due to feelings of negligence which would eventually ruin their childhood.
There are instances whereby young family members who are unable to visit their incarcerated parent as they are not old enough to visit them on their own. In resolution to this, tele-visiting is introduced to provide added convenience for visitors over face-to-face visits which are limited to a fixed day of the week. In addition, Family Day which is organised by Industrial & Services Co-operative Society Ltd (ISCOS) is conducted annually to restore bonds in the ex-convict’s family and make up for the time lost in a light-hearted manner.
Former inmates with mental illness, most commonly bipolar disorder or substance drug abusers are highly likely to commit crimes again. Unfortunately, prisoners with mental illness and chronic problems like AIDS/HIV may not have access to basic healthcare and treatment after their release. Most are likely to jeopardize their own health by drug abuse as they do not have coverage and care they are entitled to. Mentally-ill ex-convicts who are on medication may run out on treatments pills but are unable to continue to obtain them due to financial issues. Thus, most struggle to quit their addiction after their treatment in prison.
This paper has given an overview of the problems faced by ex-convicts when they re-integrate back into society and how the community is playing their part in helping to tear down what seems like a “second prison”. Both livelihood and social connections are important factors which have serious implications on ex-convicts after serving their sentences. Hence, a coordinated effort involving the Government, and the support from the community as well as individual responsibility is required for ex-convicts to successfully re-integrate back into society.