Prison system in Singapore - Statistics & Facts

Singapore boasts a reputation for being one of the safest cities in the world, yet it has a relatively high prison population rate that seems rather disproportionate to its low crime rate. As of 2015, Singapore’s prison population rate was only second to Thailand out of the Asia-Pacific countries. Even so, the incarceration rate is nowhere near that of the United States or any of the top twenty countries with the highest prison population rate.

The relatively high prison population rate in Singapore is in large part due to the strict penalties imposed on those caught for drug offenses in Singapore. Like its Southeast Asian neighbors Malaysia and Indonesia, Singapore has a tough-on-drugs approach. In 2018, approximately two-thirds of the prison population were incarcerated due to drug offences. Drug abusers are liable for imprisonment from the third offense onwards, facing up to a maximum of thirteen years in prison and a maximum of 12 stroked of the cane regardless of the class of drug being abused. Possession of a certain amount of drugs carry a mandatory death sentence. In 2017, eight people were executed in Singapore for drug trafficking.

Prison sentences in Singapore, as with most other countries, are used as a form of punishment and deterrence for committing crimes. However, in recent years, the emphasis has been shifted from punishment to rehabilitation. Inmates in Singapore are offered vocational and academic training to prepare them for life beyond prison. This contributes to keeping the recidivism rate in Singapore relatively low. In the past ten years, the percentage of released inmates reoffending within two years after their release has remained at under 30 percent.

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Prison system in Singapore

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