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SPS75 - 75 Years of Transforming Corrections in Singapore


1.       The Singapore Prison Service (SPS) celebrates ‘SPS75’ this year, commemorating 75 years since its inception as a government department in 1946.


2.       In her Facebook post to mark the start of SPS75, Minister for Communications and Information and Second Minister for Home Affairs, Mrs Josephine Teo, commended SPS on the remarkable progress that has been achieved in its mission of custody and rehabilitation of inmates, and expressed her appreciation for SPS’ commitment to transforming their lives.  “I would like to express my appreciation to all our Captains of Lives – both past and present – as well as the community partners, for their dedication and resolve in transforming the lives of those under their care. The successful rehabilitation and reintegration of inmates into society, minimise re-offending, and make for a safer Singapore.”


Lookback on the history of SPS

3.       Singapore’s penal system can be traced to the arrival of the first batch of convicts in 1825. The philosophy of deterrence through punitive measures was adopted in the prisons then, which were managed by colonial administrators, until the Second World War. In 1946, Prisons Department, now known as the Singapore Prison Service, was formally instituted as a government department to oversee the management of prisons.


4.       Over the years, SPS has progressed to become a leading correctional agency globally, with stellar records in safe and secure custody, as well as rehabilitation. Strong community partnerships and support for second chances for ex-offenders have helped to keep recidivism rates in Singapore low and stable. The two-year recidivism rate for the 2018 release cohort is 22.1 per cent, down from about 44 per cent two decades ago.


5.       In the past, prisons were located across Singapore, housing different categories of inmates. Faced with challenges such as overcrowding, the focus of SPS then was on the safe and secure custody of inmates. In the 1990s, these standalone prisons were centralised at the Changi Prison Complex (CPC), with better infrastructure and to bring about economies of scale. A new vision was conceived in 2000 with SPS officers serving as Captains of Lives to rehabilitate and reintegrate offenders as responsible members of society.


6.       SPS’s capabilities in rehabilitation have improved over time. Rehabilitation opportunities for inmates have expanded. Rehabilitation programmes now include skills training, work programmes, religious counselling, psychology-based correctional programmes, as well as motivational, family-based, and befriending programmes. Successful reintegration into the community minimises the risk of re-offending. Hence, SPS administers Community Based Programmes (CBP) that allows inmates to serve the tail-end of their sentence in the community. While on CBP, inmates are provided employment assistance by Yellow Ribbon Singapore, alongside case management, supported by our partners such as employers, halfway houses and social service agencies. 


7.       SPS leverages technology for its security, supervision and rehabilitation efforts. The integration of technology in the prisons setting, such as the use of video and data analytics, online programmes, and e-letters for inmates, allows for greater operational efficiency.


8.       Commissioner of Prisons, Ms Shie Yong Lee said, “SPS is in a good place today because of the work of past generations of Captains of Lives, and our community partners who have been relentless in their support for the rehabilitation cause. Our vision of preventing re-offending and transforming lives leads to not only a safer Singapore but also stronger families, when every reformed ex-offender is a better citizen, better neighbour, better parent and child.  SPS will continue to push ahead in its correctional efforts together with Yellow Ribbon Singapore.”


Activities to mark SPS75


9.       To commemorate SPS75, SPS’s transformation journey over the years will be showcased in its upcoming Heritage Gallery, which will be situated at the SPS Headquarters. Members of the public will be able to visit the Gallery and can also look forward to a series of stories and public engagement activities on SPS’s social media platforms.  Commemorative stamps will be available for purchase at SingPost. SPS will also be raising funds for the President’s Challenge this year.


10.   For more information on SPS75, please visit


Singapore Prison Service

21 June 2021




About the Singapore Prison Service (SPS)

As an agency under the Ministry of Home Affairs and a key member of the Home Team, SPS enforces the secure custody of inmates and rehabilitates them for a safer Singapore. SPS’s team of Captains of Lives – comprising uniformed officers and civilian staff – works closely with inmates, their families, aftercare agencies, community partners and volunteers. The Captains of Lives inspire and steer inmates to take ownership of their rehabilitation and be responsible and contributing citizens.


With its world-class prison system and evidence-informed correctional practices, SPS was awarded the Singapore Quality Award with Special Commendation in 2012 and 2019 – a recognition of its dedication to the secure custody and effective rehabilitation of inmates. SPS, Yellow Ribbon Singapore and community partners work closely to keep the recidivism rate in Singapore low and stable.