Singapore’s prison facilities are exploring the use of digital platforms and technology to help rehabilitate prisoners and better reintegrate former offenders into society.
According to a press statement, the Singapore Prison Service is adopting a three-pronged approach towards expanding its community-based programmes, through enhancing community corrections and practices, strengthening throughcare, and leveraging family and community support.
Prison officials are encouraged to focus on rehabilitation, rather than patrol. The SPS Prison Commissioner said that being focused on security and safety is like having a strong defence, but to win the game one needs to have a powerful attack – a strong rehabilitation.
The SPS will be able to assess the type of intervention each offender will require through use of digital platforms like video-counselling sessions conducted through video-conferencing.
The SPS stated that it is exploring these video counselling sessions to complement existing modes of communication and reduce travelling time and expenses for ex-offenders.
According to a SPS report, Housing Units (HUs) maintain inmate discipline and order through the use of CCTVs and supported by the Command, Control, Communication, Computer and Intelligence Management System (C4i). The C4i interacts with multiple systems to extract critical data and facilitate information flows between officers in the control centre and officers on the ground.
Full digital CCTV coverage also enables officers to shift from routine guarding duties to focus on more value-adding work, such as inmate engagement.
Intelligence-Driven Dynamic Security
The report stated that the Intelligence-Driven Dynamic Security (IDDS) HU operating model is another core component of the HU that harnesses data in the operations and rehabilitation processes.
The SPS uses data analytics to enhance its surveillance systems and risk management capabilities, translating intelligence into usable and actionable information that helps officers on the ground make more informed operational decisions.
Tech in inmate supervision
Officers are able to access the information acquired through CCTV surveillance at their fingertips via the Prison Operations & Rehabilitation System (PORTS) II mobile tablet devices. This marks a shift from manual supervision to an intelligence-aided system that maintains discipline and order in the institutions.
Digitalisation of Inmate Rehabilitation & Corrections Tool (DIRECT)
The Digitalisation of Inmate Rehabilitation & Corrections Tool (DIRECT) project gives inmates tablets where they can send and receive e-letters. 87.5% of family members have sent more letters with the introduction of this programme.
The DIRECT project also reduces inmate reliance on staff, helping the SPS to roll out differentiated rehabilitation programmes to each individual inmate electronically based on their risks and needs.
The DIRECT system works together with business analytics engines to engage inmates through tablets pre-loaded with various applications, even inside their cells. They can use the system to undertake e-learning on their own and read their electronic letters, among other things, so inmates can work towards getting the knowledge and skills to improve employability after they are released.
On the tablets, prisoners can access e-books, online resources, and motivational podcasts. This empowers them to take greater ownership of their own rehabilitation, the report said.
It also serves as an operational control tool in inmate management, incorporating the progressive privileges function for inmates. The data gathered over time allows the SPS to monitor trends in inmate behaviour, enabling improved decision-making and situational awareness.
Prisons diploma programme
In late 2018, the Prison School and Ngee Ann Polytechnic launched the first diploma programme for prisoners in Singapore in Business Practice (International Supply Chain Management). Lecturers from Ngee Ann conduct the modules, and students can continue pursuing their diploma at Ngee Ann Polytechnic after they leave prison.
The SPS plans to support more diploma courses in the future to give inmates a better chance to succeed after their release. The Superintendent of Prisons said that the SPS is continually on the lookout for opportunities to better equip their inmates with industry-relevant knowledge and skillsets, so as to support their eventual rehabilitation and reintegration into society after they are released.