More prisoners assaulting prison officers, fellow inmates
But SPS says assault rate low compared to other jurisdictions
More prisoners are assaulting prison officers and fellow inmates.
The latest statistics released by the Singapore Prison Service (SPS) revealed that there were 35 such attacks since April 1 last year resulting in serious injuries.
A year before that, from April 1, 2016, to March 31, 2017, there were 34 such attacks.
The number of such incidents were significantly lower for the same period in 2016, with just 29 cases reported.
But while the number of such incidents appears to be on a rising trend, the SPS said the assault rate was low compared with other correctional jurisdictions.
"The SPS will continue to monitor the situation closely and will take necessary measures to reduce such incidents," an SPS spokesman told The New Paper yesterday.
NUMBER OF CASES
SPS also provided the number of cases for previous years, which show that it had dipped from a five-year high of 45 cases in 2014 to a low of 29 in 2016 before creeping back up to 35 cases last year.
This is the first time the SPS has released the total number of such cases for each year. Previous statistics only revealed the rate of such incidents for every 10,000 inmates.
The SPS statistics also showed that the number of convicted penal admissions for crimes against person rose by more than 20 per cent from 2016 to 2018.
The overall recidivism rate however, fell to a six-year low of 23.7 per cent for the 2016 release cohort.
More people aged above 60 were also sent to prison, with the age group making up 486 of the 9,471 prison admissions last year.
Last year, SPS announced it was trialling a video analytics system to detect and alert prison officers to abnormal activities, such as fights, in cells.
Superintendent 1A Chan Kai Yuen had then told the media that it wanted to have fewer guards patrolling the prison cells and that the trials were promising, having already been able to detect actual fights.
He said: "The vision is such that we want to free up our officers from more mundane and routine activities so they can spend more time to engage in higher order work such as rehabilitation of our inmates."
In the SPS statistics, all the assault cases were classified as major incidents, but only two of the 98 cases from 2016 to 2018 were reported in the media.
One of these happened in June 2016. A prisoner attacked a fellow inmate who he thought had read his letter, stomping on his head and causing him to lose his right eye.
He later pleaded guilty to causing grievous hurt and was jailed for 41/2 years and given seven strokes of the cane.
The other case took place in December 2016, when an inmate in remand at Changi Prison attacked a prison officer who ignored him, punching and kicking him even as he lay motionless on the floor.
The man was later sentenced to five years in jail and given three strokes of the cane for assaulting the prison officer, being in the possession of a knife, threatening a boy with the weapon and two drug-related offences.
Mr Freddy Wee, 65, deputy director of halfway house Breakthrough Missions, who has worked with ex-offenders, told TNP that there are various reasons why inmates might lash out.
"Insubordination and anger management are a present problem," he said.
"Some led a life of gangsterism, others have depression, some are under stress or have problems managing their anger.
"The issue is how to manage and help them."
He said the environment in prison is different and not everyone can adjust immediately.
"When you are in lock up, there is a lot of restriction, limited freedoms and regimentation," said Mr Wee.
"Some people just can't take it and become easily triggered, causing problems."
Dr Carol Balhetchet, a clinical psychologist, agreed.
"(The prison environment) is a confined community with constraints and rules in a very small space.
"It's like a pressure cooker and tolerance wanes quickly," she said.