Date of the report
Author(s)Think Centre / Prison Insider

Introduction

The Singapore prison system is mainly concentrated in one vast prison housing 23,000 inmates, the Changi Prison Complex. It is described as a high-rise, high-tech and claustrophobic facility, where prisoners rarely see the sunlight.

The Singapore Prison Service (SPS) hired Burson-Marsteller in the early 2000s to transform its public image. Burson-Marsteller is best known for its work with dictatorial regimes and corporations such as Monsanto and Exxon. Since its connection with Burson-Marsteller, SPS has presented rehabilitation and reentry of ex-offenders into society as its principal mission.

To support the “rehabilitation” campaign, SPS created The Care Network, a consortium of institutions that help ex-offenders reenter the work force after their prison sentence is completed. According to government data, 16% of the prison population secured a job prior to release in 2015.

Nonetheless, prison conditions are still inhumane and violate many international standards. Inmates spend 23 hours a day inside their cells. They must sleep on the floor; their access to media, work or recreational activities is restricted. Caning is a common sanction, imposed upon inmates who commit aggravated prison offences.

The official recidivism rate for 2012 was estimated at 27.5%. This data contrasts with many scientific studies which have proved that inhumane prison conditions reduce chances for ex-offenders to reintegrate into society. It is difficult to verify the recidivism rate, since freedom of speech is very limited in Singapore. In 2015, the country was ranked 153 out of 175 nations in the Worldwide Press Freedom Index, published by Reporters Without Borders.