Making sure that prisoners can stay in touch with their families goes a long way in helping them re-integrate and rebuild their lives after their release.
Singapore’s Prisons Service has embraced the use of tech so that prison officials can focus on rehabilitation, rather than patrol. “Being focused on security and safety is like having a strong defense, but to win the game you need to have a powerful attack – a strong rehabilitation,” Soh Wai Wah, the former Commissioner of Prisons says.
The agency has launched a new program using tech to make it easier for prisoners to stay in touch with families, access reading and learning material, and even pursue a diploma while they are in prison.
Studies have observed that prisoners who maintain close contact with their family members have lower recidivism rates post release. However, according to the American Correctional Association, “few strategies actively or directly engage families as part of a comprehensive, integrated rehabilitative re-entry approach.”
Typically, inmates and their families maintain communication through physical letters and visits, the Singapore Prison Service (SPS) says. Thus, keeping contact can be a lengthy affair, with long mailing and waiting time. The agency is trialing a platform which helps monitor inmates’ activities and access to materials, allowing inmates a more personalized rehabilitation process.
The Digitalisation of Inmate Rehabilitation & Corrections Tool (DIRECT) project gives inmates tablets where they can send and receive letters. Neo Ming Feng, Assistant Director of Transformational Projects, says that 87.5% of family members have sent more letters with the introduction of this program.