The Yellow Ribbon Project has assisted over 2,000 inmates in Singapore each year in securing employment upon their release, said the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on Monday (5 Apr).
This was stated in response to Chua Chu Kang GRC Member of Parliament (MP), Zhulkarnain Abdul Rahim’s Parliamentary question to Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam on how many inmates have secured jobs upon being released from prison between 2015 and last year, the industries they are employed in, and the percentage of those who were imprisoned because of drug-related offences.
MHA said that it does not have the data for those who declined Yellow Ribbon’s assistance.
For inmates who secured jobs with Yellow Ribbon’s help, 24.8 per cent of them were employed in the food and beverage industry between 2015 to 2020.
In the same time period, 21.7 per cent were employed in logistics and wholesale trade. 20.2 per cent held jobs in environmental services, while 6.1 per cent were employed in manufacturing.
5.6 per cent were hired in the retail sector.
81 per cent of the inmates who had secured jobs with Yellow Ribbon’s help within the time period were jailed for drug-related offences, said MHA.
Separately, Workers’ Party MP Jamus Lim in Feb asked Mr Shanmugam if the Government will consider expanding the coverage of the national integrative campaign to former offenders of non-violent crimes, in order to allow their criminal history to be removed from public records and not have such history reported for employment purposes.
This is with the caveat that the ex-offenders have demonstrated good behaviour over an extended period of time, Dr Lim noted.
Seeking Dr Lim’s clarification on what he meant by “non-violent crimes”, Mr Shanmugam in his written reply stated that there are “many offences which are serious but not violent in nature, such as sexual grooming, outrage of modesty, criminal breach of trust, and theft in dwelling”.
Dr Lim’s suggestion, on the surface, “appears to be that records of such crimes should be expunged, which will, in turn, mean that ex-offenders could be employed in roles such as pre-school teachers or security officers, without their employers being aware of their history”, the minister elaborated.
“The Government operates a framework, to rehabilitate, and find employment for most offenders, in a safe and transparent manner. And that framework is being constantly refined,” said Mr Shanmugam, adding that Dr Lim may submit “a more detailed suggestion” for the Government to consider.
Dr Lim noted in a follow-up Facebook post that while there are provisions in the Registration of Criminals Act that allow criminal records to be removed for crimes based on certain criteria, the decision rests with the Commissioner of Police in other cases.
Dr Lim said that his Parliamentary question was inspired by his own experience with some residents trying to obtain security jobs such as being a guard at a condominium or shopping mall, but “were ruled out due to a glue-sniffing or petty theft offence, perpetrated in their youth”.
“There is an obvious risk from allowing a recalcitrant offender to take on jobs where they could pose a renewed danger to society.
“At the same time, there is also a risk that permanent labels to ex-offenders who have remained crime-free could inadvertently promote recidivism or jeopardise their successful reintegration into society,” Dr Lim stressed.
Thus, the purpose of the Parliamentary question was not to moot a comprehensive policy on such matters, but “to enquire if there is room for us to expand the scope of an existing program”, he said.
Addressing Mr Shanmugam’s point on ex-offenders of sexual crimes, Dr Lim said that exceptions to the suggested expansion of the Yellow Ribbon Project scope should apply to such former offenders.
Those convicted of such crimes, he said, “should not work with children as suggested by the Minister”.
The same principle applies to individuals with a history of substance abuse with regards to pharmaceuticals, or drunk driving ex-offenders with lines of work related to transport, said Dr Lim.
“I am certain that additional conditions, such as these, would be of value, and should be considered by the Ministry,” he concluded.
Mr Shanmugam in a Facebook post reiterated his remarks on the offences which are serious but may not necessarily involve physical violence.
Citing the case of 29-year-old British national Richard Christopher Monks, a tutor who was charged with molesting a 3-year-old during a class at a language training and literacy centre, Mr Shanmugam questioned if Singaporean parents would be comfortable with a situation where such an individual “can continue to work with children without employers being informed of his record”.
“It also means, for example, that an offender convicted of housebreaking could be employed as a security officer in a condominium, without his employers knowing of his record.
“Such an approach may not be wise,” said the Minister.
Mr Shanmugam stressed that the Government’s approach towards ex-offenders is “to help offenders rehabilitate” and “find jobs”.
“They have to be given second chances. But this is done in a transparent manner,” he said.