Friday, May 08, 2009

One in four returns to crime

LAW AND ORDER

But recidivism rate of 25.1% in 2006 represents 'excellent result' when compared to other countries: Shanmugam

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Leong Wee Keat, weekeat@mediacorp.com.sg

RECIDIVISM, which measures the rate of ex-offenders returning to crime, climbed slightly for those released in 2006. One out of every four ex-offenders went back to crime within two years of their release.

This increase marks the second consecutive year relapse rates have climbed: after falling from 31.2 per cent in 2002 to 23.7 per cent in 2004, re-offending rates climbed to 24.2 per cent and 25.1 per cent for the next two years.

Still, the recidivism rate for 2006 represents "an excellent result", when compared with similar penal systems in other developed countries, said Minister for Law and Second Minister for Home Affairs K Shanmugam yesterday.

Calling it "unrealistic" to expect the recidivism rate to continuously decrease each year, Mr Shanmugam said the decreasing trend would often stabilise.

For the authorities, this means it would "be more challenging to manage and rehabilitate" those who re-offend and are imprisoned again, he added.

Mr Shanmugam also called on prison officers to be prepared for a potential increase in the inmate population as the downturn bites, which might lead to a rise in the crime rate.

He said the Singapore Prison Service and the Singapore Corporation of Rehabilitative Enterprises would have to continue working on their education strategies and programmes, as well as engaging the community and families to maintain the low relapse rate or bring it even lower.

For example, the prisons will be drawing up new strategies to eliminate gang-related activities within its institutions. The authorities will introduce a "zero-sum game" programme to get inmates to renounce their gang affiliations. It will feature anti-gang education campaigns and an aftercare support network for ex-offenders, as well as research and development programmes to help uncover the reasons why inmates join gangs.

The prisons had previously introduced a zero-tolerance policy in 2001 to tackle gang issues in their institutions.

Recent figures show that there were about 22 major assaults for every 10,000 prisoners in 2007, while there were two cases of attempted gang recruitment in 2004, and one each in 2005 and 2006.

In addition, Mr Shanmugam said the Government is exploring new community-based sentencing options, under the Criminal Procedure Code Bill, that will allow some offenders to remain in the community while serving out their sentences.

For example, a Short Detention Order is being explored to give first time low-risk offenders a short experience of about one week of detention. This will, hopefully, not dislodge the offender from his family and job.

A Day Reporting Order, which would require an offender to report to a centre on a regular basis and be electronically tagged if necessary, is another option being looked at.

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From TODAY, News – Wednesday, 06-May-2009



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