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Mr Teo Chee Hean
• Yellow Ribbon art exhibition launched
More employers hiring ex-offenders: DPM Teo
SINGAPORE: More employers are hiring ex-offenders and this is a sign of greater community acceptance, said Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean.
He was speaking at the opening of the International Corrections and Prisons Association's (ICPA) 13th Annual Conference on Monday, where delegates shared best practices in helping former prison inmates re-integrate into society.
About 400 delegates from more than 60 countries are in Singapore for the five-day conference.
Mr Teo, who is also Singapore's Home Affairs Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security, said: "Since 2007, there has been a 69 per cent increase in the number of employers who have volunteered to hire ex-offenders. We currently have 2,700 employers who are willing to give ex-offenders second chances."
The Singapore Prison Service (SPS) said some 9,000 ex-offenders are released each year.
Mr Teo added that greater collaboration between the community and the SPS has been key in helping ex-offenders find jobs after their release.
He also cited the Yellow Ribbon Project as a successful rallying point, encouraging ex-offenders to take charge of their lives upon release.
Desmond Chin, Deputy Director of the SPS, said: "A person entering the prison system begins his rehabilitation from day one... whether it's through treatment programmes, skills training via WDA (Workforce Development Agency) route and so on."
The Singapore Corporation of Rehabilitative Enterprises (SCORE) is part of Singapore's correctional system, preparing offenders for their reintegration by enhancing their employability status. It said training is aligned with the WDA framework so inmates are able to get the same type of training that any Singaporean receives.
Juliana Abdul Khalik, SCORE's Reintegration Division's Senior Assistant Director, said: "Upon their release, they can also upgrade their skills because they have already have the foundation."
From October 1, offenders will also be asked to openly commit to a set of work ethics before they are matched to job vacancies from volunteer employers with the Yellow Ribbon Project. They will sign a form which they will keep with themselves, thereby reinforcing their determination to keep their goal in sight.
Mr Chin said: "This is just another step of the prisoner making a commitment when he is released to continue to stay on with his employer, who has given (him) the opportunity and the second chance at a having a new lease of life.
"It's an important commitment he should make because every time he does well, the next person that's coming out after him, stands a better chance of getting employment and carrying on with his life outside."
Singapore is seen as a success story in this respect.
Ed Wozniak, Executive Director of the International Corrections and Prisons Association, said: "You have, in the last decade, managed to introduce a far healthier relationship with the community. Both in terms of re-entry, when people come to the end of a sentence, but also in terms of community sanctions in the use of the community."
Mr Wozniak added: "Prisons are part of the community. In the context of much of Europe and North America, prisons are anything but part of the community. They're kept at a distance, people are forgotten. Unless there's an umbilical between the prison and the community, you have less chance of a safer society, and more chance of repeat offenders."
Moving forward, authorities in Singapore are looking at developing more effective aftercare programmes, over the next two to three years.
Mr Chin said SPS staff has been visiting countries like Australia and the UK, which have a lot more experience in "community corrections" programmes. It is also looking to work with grassroots organisations and family service centres to provide additional support for inmates upon their release.
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