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The Prison Story

Old Prison Group Photo


Year 1825 Penal Settlement – The Original Jail

On 18th April 1825, the first batch of penal convicts arrived and they were housed in temporary huts along Bras Basah Canal. The philosophy of deterrence through punitive measures rather than rehabilitation was adopted.

Year 1847 Civil Jail 

Civil Jail at Pearl's Hill was built. However, overcrowding remained a perennial problem and a continued punitive approach in prison management led to an extremely high rate of recidivism.

Year 1936 Changi Prison – Last Prison Built by the British 

Changi Prison, a maximum security prison, was built and operationalised in 1936.  “It is hoped that in due course this Prison may become a training ground for the misfits of society, rather than a purely penal institution.” – OC Hancock, Inspector of Prisons of the Straits Settlements and the Federated Malay States, at the opening of Changi Prison on 4th January 1937. With this, a new philosophy of reform and rehabilitation was promulgated.

Year 1946 Institutionalisation of SPS 

SPS was institutionalised as a Department and Mr G E W W Bayly became its first Commissioner.

Year 1973 Directorship of Mr Quek Shi Lei (1 Nov 1973 - 31 Dec 1987) 

Mr Quek Shi Lei was appointed Director of Prisons on 1st  November 1973.

Year 1974 Prisons Re-Organisation Committee 

MHA set up a Prisons Re-Organisation Committee to review the system of rehabilitation, industrial training and work discipline. A new system of classification was then adopted in which inmates were grouped into sixteen classes under three broad categories.

Year 1988 Directorship of Mr Tee Tua Ba (1 January 1988-1 July 1992) 

On 1st January 1988, Mr TeeTua Ba took over as Director of Prisons, while Mr Quek Shi Lei acted as advisor to SPS and became CEO, Singapore Corporation of Rehabilitative Enterprises (SCORE). 

SPS Mission and Operations Philosophy, which formed the guiding principles on inmate management, were promulgated.

Year 1992 Directorship of Mr Poh Geok Ek (1 July 1992 - 1 November 1998) 

On 1st July 1992, Mr Poh Geok Ek took over office from Mr Tee Tua Ba, who was posted to Singapore Police Force (SPF) as Commissioner of Police.

Year 1994 Official Opening of Tanah Merah Prison and Changi Women’s Prison/Drug Rehabilitation Centre

Tanah Merah Prison and Changi Women’s Prison/Drug Rehabilitation Centre were officially opened by Minister for Home Affairs, Mr Wong Kan Seng, on 23rd April 1994. Based on the then latest contemporary prison design, these two purpose-built prisons served as the flagship institutions leading SPS into the 21st century.

Year 1996 Revision of SPS Mission and Operations Philosophy

SPS Mission statement, Operations philosophy and corporate statement were revised in March 1996. A set of Core Values was also adopted.

Cluster A Facade

Year 1998 Directorship of Mr Chua Chin Kiat

On 1st November 1998, Mr Chua Chin Kiat took over office from Mr Poh Geok Ek who retired.

Year 1999 Groundbreaking Ceremony for the Redevelopment of Changi Prison Complex

Mr Wong Kan Seng, Minister for Home Affairs was invited as the Guest-of-Honour for the groundbreaking ceremony on 31st December 1999.

Year 1999 Development of Current Vision and Revision of Mission Statement

SPS organised a visioning exercise in January to collectively craft a shared Vision and review its mission to better accommodate the changing needs and expectations of its customers and the public.The new Vision and revised Mission were unveiled by the Minister for Home Affairs, Mr Wong Kan Seng on 31st December 1999. SPS tagline, “Captain of Lives” was also unveiled.

Year 2000 Establishment of Kaki Bukit Centre (KBC) as a Prison School

On 3rd January 2000, KBC was established as a Prison School for inmates’ education and skills learning. With this, teaching resources were centralised and more inmates were able to pursue further education.

Year 2004 Official Launch of Cluster A

Operationalisation of Cluster A marked another milestone in SPS’s journey towards building an exemplary prison system.

Year 2004 Yellow Ribbon Project (YRP)

The first YRP was launched in October to raise public awareness and acceptance of the community towards ex-offenders, so as to garner community support for inmates’ re-integration into society.

Year 2007 Directorship of Mr Ng Joo Hee

On 1st November 2007, Mr Ng Joo Hee took over office from Mr Chua Chin Kiat who moved on to become the executive director of AETOS Security Management. 
Selarang Park Prison/DRC was transformed to a Supervision Centre to manage inmates emplaced on Community Based Programmes and released on supervision.

Year 2010 Directorship of Mr Soh Wai Wah 

On 1st January 2010, Mr Soh Wai Wah took over office from Mr Ng Joo Hee, who moved on to become the Commissioner of Police.

Cluster B Facade

Year 2010 Opening Ceremony of Cluster B

Cluster B was officially opened by Mr Wong Kan Seng, Minister for Home Affairs on 20th January 2010.



Last Updated/Reviewed on 06-March-2018