Contributor(s)Think Centre / Prison Insider

Contact with the outside world

While in the initial remand phase, inmates are allowed to receive televisits only (video conference calls). If the person stays in pre-trial detention, two televisits and two face-to-face visits are allowed per week. Convicted prisoners can receive one televisit and one face-to-face visit per month.

Televisits must be conducted in special televisit centres, in the prison complex or in dedicated venues in the city.

Visits last thirty minutes and can take place from Monday to Friday only. A glass separates inmates and relatives; no physical contact is allowed during visits.

Up to three visitors can participe in the same visit session, generally family members and close relatives. Non relatives must request authorization from the prison administration.

To be able to visit inmates, family members must obtain a Visit Card. Only one Visit Card is issued per inmate. The cardholder must accompany relatives who wish to visit.

Visits must be scheduled through the Visits Office. Relatives must prove their identity and legal relationship to the detainee.

Relatives visiting inmates in pre-trial detention are allowed to buy one snack item per visit at the Visit Link Centre.

Inmates can receive an unlimited amount of mail but can write only two letters a month. All letters are subject to censorship and may take several weeks to reach the recipient. Inmates must request a letter form from the hall officer. When writing a letter, prisoners are not allowed to make mistakes or cancel words.

Telephone calls are prohibited. Prisoners are authorized to make phone calls only when they reach a certain stage of serving their sentence; however calls are still highly restricted.

When prisoners need to pass a message on to their relatives, their only option, is to request to see the prison officer.

Probation is available mainly for minors. Adults are very rarely placed in house arrest or benefit from a suspended sentence.

Once two-thirds of their prison sentence is completed, prisoners are elegible for early release. The release date can be delayed as punishment, even for a minor prison offence (cf. “Security”).

In some cases, prisoners can serve the tail end of the sentence in community-based programs. They can be placed either in Home Detention—if considered to be “low-risk” and having good family support—or in “halfway care houses” – low security prisons, where inmates can leave for work during the day and stay for up to a year.

It is possible to request a compassionate leave if a close relative if seriously ill or has passed away.

Authorities tend to expeditiously charge detainess and bring to trial the majority of those arrested. However, a functioning bail system exists.

Free legal assistance is accorded to those who do not have sufficient means to pay for it. It can only be accorded to offenders who are not charged with capital offences.

Those accused of a capital crime are eligible for state-funded legal aid only after investigations have been completed or nearly completed.

The Criminal Legal Aid Scheme, run by the Law Society, covers additional criminal offences and is partially funded by the government.

Those facing the death penalty who cannot affford legal representation, can be assisted by a public defender.

Persons arrested under the ISA (Internal Security Act) have the right to legal counsel.

Foreign nationals without a permanent residence permit can obtain free legal aid only through pro-bono representation by lawyers working in legal clinics such as those under the Criminal Legal Aid Scheme.

The Administration of Justice (Protection) Act, passed in August 2016, provides penalties of up to three years in prison for several forms of contempt of court. The bill includes the “scandalizing the judiciary” offence, which dates back to colonial times, and is used to penalize anyone who dares to criticize the judiciary or judicial decisions. Offenders can risk up to S$100,000 (US$74,200) and three years in prison. Those suspected of contempt can be subjected to warrantless searches and arrests.

Singapore has signed very few international human rights treaties. It is not a part of the UN Convention against Torture.