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Halfway Home

Institutional homes are often stigmatised as dreary places for the poor, the elderly, and those abandoned by society. In this episode, student-producer Weiyun introduces us to a different kind of institutional home: a halfway house, where some of Singapore’s prisoners serve the last few months of their sentences. Weiyun and Chris tour one facility and learn its role in the broader framework of Singapore’s prison system. Then we sit down for an intimate interview with a resident. He shares what it was like to serve time in prison and the newfound freedoms of the halfway house. After drowning in the ocean, he has finally reached the shore. He needs time and space to learn how to walk on land, as he gets a step closer to home. In this episode, we explore Singapore’s prison system and the struggle to get past halfway.

Sound effects from freesound.org. Music from audioblocks.com.

Read the transcript

Listen to Season 1 here

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – References – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

– Lee, Justin, Fern Yu, Hawyee Auyong, and Stephanie Chok. “Annex B: Rehabilitation, Recidivism, and Reintegration: An Examination of Singapore’s Penal System for Drug Offenders” Community-Based Approaches to the Prevention, Rehabilitation and Reintegration of Drug Offenders: 47 – 68.

  1. This research paper critically analyses the ‘through-care’ framework of Singapore’s penal system from the perspective of drug offenders. It also highlights the governing philosophies that shape its programs and policies.
  2. Important points raised in the paper include:
    • The four basic purposes to imprisonment ascribed by the SPS
    • The shift in focus: from punishment to rehabilitation
    • ‘Deservedness’ criteria for rehabilitative support
      • Prisoners are categorised based on risk assessments
      • Governed by the principle of efficient resource allocation 
      • Emphasis on efficiency is driven by ‘scarcity’ mentality 
      • Such categorisation leading to greater inequalities within an already marginalised group 
      • The deliberate involvement of religious group in rehabilitative process due to official view of the transformative potential of religion on attitudes and behaviours
      • Community-based programs aligns with the ‘ethos of shared responsibility’ touted by Singapore government
      • Faith-based/Ethnic-based rehabilitation and reintegration programs  as a structural disadvantage to offenders who are ethnic minorities since they may rely on less well-endowed and less well-connected service provider
      • The enduring punitive effects of incarceration and lasting stigma that plagues ex-offenders become powerful barriers for successful reintegration

– Wong, Jennifer S, Jessica Bouchard, Kelsey Gushue, and Chelsey Lee. “Halfway Out: An Examination of the Effects of Halfway Houses on Criminal Recidivism” International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology 63 (7): 1018-1037.

  1. This research paper is a systematic review and meta-analysis of nine studies examining the effects of halfway houses on recidivism
  2. Findings
    • Overall, the findings suggest that targeting offenders when they are “halfway out” is an effective correctional strategy for reentry and reintegration and that halfway houses are a valuable back-end correctional alternative.
  3. Conclusion
    • Overall, targeting offenders when they are “halfway out” appears to be an effective correctional strategy for successful reentry and reintegration.
    • The current study contributes to a growing body of literature which demonstrates that community-based interventions are a promising correctional alternative in terms of controlling or reducing recidivism.
    • As intermediate sanctions are commonly criticized for jeopardizing public safety by releasing offenders back into the community before the end of their prison sentence, and funding for halfway houses is being cut around the United States, this is an important finding.
    • However, elements of programs that are related to more successful outcomes are still not well understood; further work is needed to determine best practices and improve the efficiency and effectiveness of halfway houses for various offender types.

Additional links about Halfway Houses:

– Channel News Asia: More inmates serving in ‘prison without walls’

  1. Very insightful comment by a liasing and training manager at The Helping Hand, a Christian halfway house: he says “The prison environment is always going to be artificial and controlled. Time is suspended, and you are removed from your problems.” 
  2. This is also why community-based programs like staying in halfway houses are important: they prevent prisoners from becoming entirely detached from the rest of the society ‘
  3. However, expanding community-based rehabilitation programs also face resistance from the larger community – fear and distrust towards prisoners due to entrenched stereotypes and prejudice: therefore the challenge is a strike suitable balance

– Singapore Prison Service: First Government-Run Halfway House to Strengthen Aftercare Support for Ex-Offenders

  1. This article is by the Singapore Prison Service 
  2. Article mainly discusses the new halfway house that is recently opened at Upper Changi Road 
  3. What is special about this particular halfway house is that it is the first to be managed as a Government facility – compared to the rest of the halfway houses in Singapore that are under the auspices of religious organizations 
  4. Article highlights the steps taken by the authorities to ensure better ‘Aftercare’ support (i.e. – after the prisoners have been released)
    • Tapping into the potential of technological devices: providing counselling services, e-learning modules and self-help functions through video conferencing and digital mobile applications
    • Encouraging familial support and making effective use of community networks to reintegrate prisoners
    • Newly-launched (early this year) of ‘Social Skills Training Program’ to guide ex-offenders how to communicate with loved ones again, particularly important given the negative impact of incarceration on the social ties of prisoner

The Pride (Singapore Kindness Movement): How do you escape Singapore’s invisible prison?

  1. This article explores the role of ex-offenders’ social networks and interpersonal relationships on successful reintegration and likelihood of recidivism.
  2. Some interesting insights:
    • The disturbing disconnection and unfamiliarity many ex-offenders feel upon release: years of incarceration creates a cultural and knowledge gap between these individuals and the rest of society
    • The ease of relapsing in a ‘drug-friendly ecosystem’ due to the homogeneity of their social circles – these ex-offenders get acquainted with many other drug users while serving their sentences
    • Severed familial ties propels ex-offenders to share resources (like housing) with other ex-offenders, thus limiting changes in their social circles

– The Straits Times: Community Support more crucial than ever

  1. This article explores:
    • More varied sentencing options are proposed by different stakeholders and MPs – instead of sending young drug users to jail or Drug Rehabilitation Centres, they could instead probation terms
    • Stakeholders also suggest inmates to stay longer in halfway houses in order to obtain more time to adjust to life outside of prison and ‘build a good foundation’ to prevent recidivism
    • Pastor Don Wong (Pastor and Executive director of The New Charis Mission – a Christian halfway house) commented that prisons should the last option for youth. This reminds us of the idea that prisons are ‘bastard’ institutions
    • The importance of reconnecting and rebuilding family ties in helping prisoners reintegrate into society

– The Straits Times: The doctor will see you now – at a halfway house

  1. This article informs us about the medical services brought to prisoners in halfway houses – a heartening initiative to improve well-being of these residents
    • Medical services are often inaccessible to many offenders due to bureaucratic reasons (approval is needed to leave the institutions/prison complexes) and costs
    • Having a mobile clinic to provide medical services for prisoners will improve their physical well-being
    • The mobile clinic provide preventive care, vaccinations, health screening and medication for common illnesses
    • This initiative is made possible by the concerted effort of various organizations like Mount Alvernia Hospital, halfway houses, volunteers, medical professionals and Yellow Ribbon Project – highlighting that collaboration is crucial
    • However, organizers still face logistic constraints relating to small spaces in halfway houses and are still in the midst of establishing a regular schedule for medical check

A look at the interior of the woman prison in Singapore’s prison system


An image of inmates participating in activities inside Singapore’s prison

Additional videos about Halfway Houses:

– Channel News Asia: Life in a Nursing Home (Talking Point)

Full Documentary of Nursing Home Stay

Former offenders talk about their lives in prison

Brian Tan: An ex-convict’s story

– A serial convict’s journey out of prison

Ting Wei’s Letter

Published in Podcast Episodes S2

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