Imprisonment is punishment. As such, our prisons must, first and foremost, remain austere, and the regime of incarceration, strict. Imprisonment is also incapacitation, designed to deny the incarcerated the opportunity to further offend. In addition, imprisonment must be suitably stringent, in order to deter the convicted person against future re-offending, and the similarly minded in the public from new offending.
Clearly then, it is imperative that the prisons and drug rehabilitation centres we operate remain safe and secure. Only safe and secure, austere yet humane prisons will guarantee that the Prison Service can fulfil the multiple goals of punishment, incapacitation, deterrence and —most difficult of all — that of rehabilitation, reformation and reintegration.
Every year, more than 9,000 offenders complete their sentences and return to our communities. If we are able to dissuade them from re-offending through our various programmes, we can prevent thousands of new crimes every year. In the process, we reduce harm to society, making Singapore a safer place for all.
Prisons are often described as places where bad people go to get worse. The Singapore Prison Service takes a radically different view. Singaporean prisons must not be mere jailhouses, but transformational places, where strayed lives can be steered back on course. For the deserving and suitably motivated, the time spent in detention can be profitably deployed, to unlearn previously destructive behaviors, learn a trade or skill, or resume formal education. Serving time should never be a waste of time.