PAP MPs call for Govt to help improve employability & acceptance of ex-offenders

As a society that aspires to be inclusive and caring, what more can we do for ex-offenders in Singapore?

Four of our PAP MPs chose to devote their cuts during the Ministry of Home Affairs’ (MHA) Committee of Supply debate today to this issue.

Highlighting how Singapore’s 2-year recidivism rates have reached our lowest in 30 years, Mr Zhulkarnain Abdul Rahim (Chua Chu Kang GRC) said that a whole-of-society approach is required to help ex-offenders overcome their challenges in life.

Mr Zhulkarnain asked:

“We should tackle long term recidivism rates on a five year period horizon. How does MHA intend to further reduce the long term recidivism rates of ex offenders?”

Mr Christopher de Souza (Holland-Bukit Timah GRC) called for Singapore to raise more awareness “to accept former offenders as fellow and equal members of society”.

Increased awareness would also translate into greater public support and more volunteers for the CARE (Community Action for the Rehabilitation of Ex-offenders) Network, the Yellow Ribbon project, and other aftercare programmes.

He also highlighted the importance of mentorship in helping ex-offenders after their release.

He asked:

“How is MHA creating awareness and generating acceptance for our former offenders in order to facilitate their transition and welcoming back into society?”

“How can MHA and the Singapore Prison Service continue to enhance the provision of post-release mentorship schemes for our former offenders?”

A big part of the rehabilitation of ex-offenders involves helping them find and sustain employment.

As Dr Tan Wu Meng (Jurong GRC) mentioned during his cut, some ex-offenders come out from prison only to find that the job market has changed.

“Some are older, having been in and out of incarceration, and are now dealing with health conditions, even as they’re trying to find work. Finding work, finding a job — it’s part of the recovery journey, the rehabilitation journey, rebuilding a life while coming back into society.”

“What is MHA doing to improve the employability of ex-offenders who are rebuilding their lives? And how are we recognising employers who are inclusive — employers who lean in to give someone that second chance in life?”

Mr Patrick Tay (Pioneer SMC) drew on his experience holding dialogue sessions with ex-offenders and inmates.

“As much as it was happy to hear some employers leaning forward to help hire ex offenders,” he said, “we heard the fears and anxieties from the inmates who were soon-to-be-released and wanting to reintegrate back into society as well as find decent work when they were out.”

Aside from asking for a review of the Registration of Criminals Act, Mr Tay raised two points:

“I wish to know what has been done thus far, and the plans of Singapore Prison Service and Yellow Ribbon Singapore in this important space to help in employment and employability needs of ex-offenders.

I suggest MHA give more support for halfway houses and shelters specially catered for women, including those run by charities, NGOs or religious organisations.”

Images via Milad Fakurian on Unsplash, CNA.