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A mission to rehabilitate offenders
TO help offenders reintegrate back to society after their release from prison, the Singapore Prison Service (SPS) set up an operational unit known as the Community Corrections Command to help them make that critical transition.
SPS also collaborates with its community partners and volunteers to support offenders from "in-care to aftercare".
Furthermore, the organisation works with its counterparts in the criminal justice system, such as law enforcement agencies and the courts, on alternative sentencing options for first-time, low-risk offenders. Such options include the Day Reporting Order and the Short Detention Order.
The government agency, which is part of the Ministry of Home Affairs, has also leveraged technology to become more efficient in its processes. To this end, it has introduced initiatives like e-letters, self-service kiosks and e-learning that enable offenders to perform simple tasks and take ownership of their rehabilitation.
These and other changes came about after SPS adopted the Business Excellence (BE) Framework in 2000 to help strengthen their systems and processes. Advancing on the BE journey has helped the organisation to carry out its mission of ensuring the safe and secure custody of offenders, and to rehabilitate them for a safer Singapore.
SPS staff, known as Captains of Lives, together with their partners and volunteers, contribute to this mission by equipping offenders with the right skills, attitude and values to become responsible citizens.
"As Captains of Lives, we are in the business of transforming the lives of our offenders from the day they enter into our custody. We benchmark ourselves against the best practices of other organisations to learn from them and continue to do better," said Desmond Chin, Commissioner of Prisons.
Reflecting its success in implementing the framework, SPS won the Singapore Quality Award with Special Commendation (SQA SC) in 2012, and once again this year. SQA SC recognises past SQA Winners and Niche Award Winners for scaling greater heights of excellence and sustained global leadership. It is the pinnacle award under the BE umbrella.
"Since being conferred the SQA SC in 2012, we have introduced a number of new initiatives under the Home Team 2025 transformation plan. This is important because we know that when we become better at what we do, more lives are transformed, creating a ripple effect that will impact our offenders, their families and our community at large," pointed out Mr Chin.
"The BE framework allows us to examine our systems and processes thoroughly, and to continuously improve and innovate. The SQA SC 2019 Award reaffirms the direction we had taken almost two decades ago - that effective rehabilitation and lowered recidivism rates are the way to go for the long-term good of society," he added.
SPS adopts a "throughcare approach" to ensure that offenders' rehabilitation and reintegration needs are managed from their time in prison until their release. It uses evidence-based practices to determine re-offending risks and rehabilitation needs of offenders, and conducts research to ensure that its correctional practices remain effective.
For instance, the Community Corrections Command helps to rehabilitate offenders in a community setting and supports their successful reintegration into society. Meanwhile, the Mandatory Aftercare Scheme provides support and supervision to higher-risk offenders when they are released from prison.
SPS regularly shares its correctional knowledge and initiatives with its overseas counterparts.
Examples include the Yellow Ribbon Project (YRP) and the use of technology to enhance SPS' operational effectiveness and efficiency.
The YRP has provided other countries with a working model to alleviate the social stigma faced by ex-offenders, and creates an ecosystem which is ready to accept them after their release. (See above)
The organisation also holds key positions in the International Corrections and Prisons Association (ICPA) and the Asian and Pacific Conference of Correctional Administrators.
SPS was the 2017 winner of the ICPA Correctional Excellence Awards for its Enhanced Supervision Scheme for Drug Offenders.
As an organisation with a mission unlike most others, SPS has had to adapt the BE Framework for its own purposes.
"The challenge lies in identifying how the BE Framework can be applied in SPS' operating context. Most businesses organise their strategies and operations to maximise profit and gain repeat customers. As a correctional agency, SPS is neither profit-making nor do we want repeat customers. We want to see our offenders leave the prison as reformed persons and return to society as contributing members once again," explained Mr Chin.
Despite its successes so far on the BE journey, SPS will continue to leverage the framework as it continues to strive for excellence.
"Being good is one thing. Being great at what we do is another. Our recidivism rates are already low and stable, but we must strive to do better. Every offender who stays crime- and drug-free means one less person in prison and one less family that is affected. Our Captains of Lives are our greatest asset. They are the key to this critical work of rehabilitation and reintegration, and we are committed to developing them to do their best," explained Mr Chin.
He added: "Our BE journey continues. We need to find new and innovative ways to achieve our goals in reducing the incarceration and recidivism rates. We must also work with our stakeholders and community partners toward our vision of a society without re-offending. The work is unfinished. We will press on."