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Singapore's rapidly ageing population's number of elderly citizens is projected to triple to 900,000 by 2030. The Singapore prisons' population is also not spared this increase. According to data released recently by the Singapore Prison Service (SPS), 5,408 out of 9,754 convicts are between 41 to 60 years old and the proportion of convicted inmates aged above 60 will continue to grow.
Singapore stands as one of the more successful countries when it comes to the care of inmates. Singapore's Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has been investing a significant portion of its budget on programmes that help to deliver a humane custody and rehabilitation of inmates. MHA also recognises that a greying population will require a revamp in facilities and recently announced the improvement of prison cells to cater to older inmates.
However, there are social and infrastructural challenges associated with elderly inmates. From my experience working in Community Corrections in the New York City government, I found that elderly inmates need a different type of care, attention and help while detained.
After serving their time in the facility, the transition from prison to life on the outside is difficult for anyone, and for older people the challenge is even greater. Any inmate who serves a long sentence will find a dramatically different world upon their release. Changes in technology for example, can be daunting, not to mention a weaker social connection with family and friends. While younger inmates are more likely to reintegrate with their family and find it easier to find employment; elderly inmates may become isolated and find it much more difficult to adapt to the new life. Stress and the feeling of rejection can lead to reactionary behaviour that increases their chances of recidivism.
SPS observed that the success rates of rehabilitation are higher if inmates had the support of families and engage in various training programmes. Here, technology plays a crucial role in assisting in the integration and eventual rehabilitation of soon-to-be released inmates. Several prisons systems around the world, especially Singapore, have successfully implemented video conferencing technologies to increase inmates' exposure to society.
Technology is used not only to familiarise older inmates with new environments and societal changes, but in also providing them with the opportunity to interact with their families, supervisors and counsellors. Technology is also an excellent enabler in re-training. Inmates use videoconferencing tools to participate or listen to previously recorded workshops or coaching sessions and pick up new and useful skills and tips in the process.
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