Continued Throughcare Community Partnership Crucial Amidst COVID19 Uncertainties
SINGAPORE, 17 December 2020 – Today, the Singapore Prison Service (SPS) recognised 370 individual volunteers and Social Service Agencies (SSAs) for their commitment and long service in support of offenders and ex-offenders. The SPS Volunteer Awards ceremony, which first took place in 2007, was conducted over a virtual platform this year in light of the COVID-19 situation.
Minister of State for Home Affairs and Sustainability and the Environment Mr Desmond Tan, who was the Guest-of-Honour at this year’s event, reiterated the important role prison volunteers play in supporting offenders and their families in his speech at the ceremony. He said: “The effective rehabilitation of offenders and their successful reintegration into society are instrumental in preventing re-offending. As prison volunteers, you are key to these efforts.” Prison volunteers provide pro-social support and deliver programmes such as religious services, education, enrichment and family-based activities for offenders.
Mr Tan also commended the volunteers for their dedication and commitment to the cause despite facing many challenges brought about by the COVID-19 situation. During the Circuit Breaker period earlier this year, SPS suspended in-person programmes involving external partners for the safety and well-being of volunteers, staff and offenders. At the same time, SPS worked quickly with community partners and volunteers to ensure that offenders were still able to receive rehabilitation programme materials, through pre-recorded videos, worksheets and notes. Special arrangements were also made so that some volunteers were able to maintain contact with offenders through e-letters and phone calls.
Senior Assistant Director for Community and Family Policy at SPS’ Rehabilitation and Reintegration Division SUPT Valerie Chiang said: “We are heartened to learn that the various obstacles and physical limitations due to COVID-19 have not hindered our community partners’ persistence in supporting offenders and their families. Some have gone the extra mile and stepped up their efforts to check in more frequently with the beneficiaries, which is especially crucial during this period of uncertainty, when offenders and their families face greater stress, such as employment challenges.”
Since Phase 2 of Singapore’s safe reopening, SPS has resumed in-person rehabilitation programmes and services in a calibrated manner, with safe management measures in place. SPS also collaborated with community partners to leverage teleconferencing technology to resume family bonding sessions in a safe manner.
In the coming months, SPS has plans to partner SSAs to expand the Throughcare Volunteer Framework, which would allow prison volunteers to continue to befriend offenders even after their release from prison. This would ensure continuity of pro-social support and sustained engagement of offenders from incare to aftercare.
Mdm Chua Nga Woon, an SPS Befriender and one of this year’s recipients of the 3-year Long Service Award said: “I am looking forward to enhance the support that we provide and hope that more from the community will join us to walk alongside offenders and their families in their journey of reintegration.”
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 offenders and rehabilitates them for a safe Singapore. SPS’ team of Captains of Lives – comprising uniformed officers and civilian staff – work closely with families of inmates, aftercare agencies, community partners and volunteers to steer offenders towards becoming responsible and contributing citizens.
With its world-class prison system, 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 offenders for a safer Singapore.