Side event: Inspiring community action in the rehabilitation and re-integration of offenders

Organized by Singapore with the support of the UNODC Prevention, Treatment and Rehabilitation Section

Valerie Chiang: Today many of the community of joined Singapore’s program to rehabilitate and reintegration. Our goal is for every inmate to have social support by the time they are released.  The Yellow Ribbon project is a grassroots project, offering emotional support and support in the community.  Over 5000 employers registered to offer opportunities for offenders.

Chiu Siu-Tsz, Hong Kong Correctional Services: Community participation and sentence options for drug addicts. Rehabilitation of inmates is constantly monitored in cooperation with community stakeholders.  Work together with NGOs to run drug prevention program through individual and group counseling to increase inmate determination to quit drugs.  Also have volunteer members in skills building.  Religious service offered to all inmates.  Pre-release reintegration course including referral to departments like proper housing, careers.  Employment service provides job finding for inmates with potential employers.  Employment symposium are regularly held to promote employment services and enhance employment understanding of challenges of offenders.  During post release, to ensure continual care and guidance, supervision is provided for inmates.  Counseling provided for family reintegration and employment such as stay away from drugs and crime.  Positive energy map program launched which organizes various activities through comprehensive data base such as finding hobbies.  Continual care project engages several NGOs to follow up young supervisees. Apart from remedial program, we emphasize community education to promote anti-drug message in Hong Kong, in secondary school to live a law abiding healthy life.  Green Haven scheme allows people to visit drug rehabilitation program to see consequences of abusing drugs.

Rie Suzuki, Prison Service Division, Japan Correction Center: The trend of drug offenders in Japan. The number of new inmates has decreased each year since 2017.  The percentage of theft is highest.  For female inmates, number of violations of drugs has increased.  The rate of repeat offenders by same offense has increased by 67% in 2019. Promotion of re-oeffending prevention measures. Belief that anyone can be reintegrated into the community. To ensure that anyone who committed crime will receive necessary guidance after they integrated into the community through close coordination with various agencies.  The new measures for drug offenders for recovery for drug dependency for female inmates aims to provide rehabilitation in prison.  The pilot project period the prison and private bodies work together to implement and reevaluate treatment programs.  Development of treatment programs for drug dependencies, funding program facilitators, establish coordinators, development prison work, and commencement of inmates commitment to special unit for the project.  5 key indicators for outcome and impact.

Giovanna Campello, UNODC Prevention, Treatment and Rehabilitation Section: The framework to support health and wellbeing of offenders are based on our programs over the years.  Broad spectrum of treatment to support people who use drugs and people with drug use disorders. The standards also address treatment in criminal justice system.  Overview of principles and best practices providing alternative in criminal justice process.  This also includes steps of release. Clear guidance in international level need to be in the same as in the community.  Health is more vulnerable in prison settings, especially for women. What happens on release, it is a very delicate time.  There is evidence of dying of overdose increase during this period.  Risk is higher for female than male offenders. Initiatives that accompany offenders in reintegration are important.  Key principle is to ensure continuity of services, pharmacological, psychosocial.  Drug dependence is a health condition, this means relapse can happen and should be managed such as when adapting to life after prison. For example, a half way house is organized especially when transition to community and have structured treatement options.  Another example, connects care pre and post release, such as health care provisions and following up in accessing services and preventing relapse and recidivism.  In Indonesia and Vietnam, family therapy for adolescent program implemented.

Q&A

  1. What are the most crucial factors in rehabilitation and reintegration of reoffenders?

Giovanna-Most important factor is preparedness and not expecting that reintegration is something that just happens.  There is alot of stigma and they do need a lot of support. This is cost effective because it will pay off in terms of health, safety, recidivism for everybody.

Suzuki- important factor is to share information.  In Japan, correction bureau and rehabilitation bureau is separated.  There are 2 viewpoints of officers and drug offenders. In Japan, in prison we have rehabilitation program for drug offenders.  The offenders have to make a prevention plan and officer need to inform this model to prevention officer.  For offender it’s important to inform them to know social support.  For example, where is the care house.

Chiang- continue to work on motivation to change of offenders but also creating prosocial support around him.  Building community of supporters that will be ready and recognize that it takes time.  Bring in new positive circles.

Chiu- critical factor is meaningful engagement.  There is employment or lifestyle, why do drug addicts chose this option.  Maybe his life is too empty, or maybe need to escape.  During rehabilitation, first we want to help them to engage in something, maybe stable employment or other hobbies that is meaningful in their lives.  We try our best to help them to find job or create new social cycle or religious belief.

2. Is there age limit for entry drug education that was shared earlier?

Chiu- We target secondary school age of around 10-12

3. What is the challenge faced in developing interventions for female inmates with drug dependencies?

Suzuki- Based on characteristics of female offenders.  Many female offenders have trauma and officer cannot treat trauma itself but we can treat OD work or how to control/deal with their experience with trauma or dependency.  Compared with ordinary treatment in prison, most important component is prison work. But this program is also about counseling, skills building, environment.

4. What are some positive outcomes from Yellow Ribbon Project?

Chiang- increase in partners in providing after care support for offenders and their families.  Getting a bigger base of partners. In terms of employment, the project has attracted employers to offer higher paying jobs to support desistance.

5. What is the biggest challenge to mobilize community action to support reintegration and rehabilitation of drug offenders into society?

Chiu- lucky in Hong Kong that stakeholders are willing to participate and engage.  We do a lot of publicity like events promotions.  There is high acceptance of ex-offenders or drug addicts.  Most of the time, they actively approach us to provide service in correctional institutions.  There is many creative ideas. We need to have better understanding towards the needs of rehabilitators.

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