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Indian Community Aftercare Council (ICAC) – February 3rd, 2015
Mr K. Kesavapany addresses the audience during the launch
On account of the growing concern about the rising incidents of recidivism among drug offenders including Indians, SINDA established a task-force to study the issue.
Chaired by SINDA’s Executive Committee Member Mr R Rajaram the task-force, in its report to the SINDA’s Board of Trustees (BOT), recommended the establishment of a Befriender programme. After studying the task-force report, the BOT in February 2014 decided to setup an Indian Community Aftercare Council (ICAC) with Ambassador K Kesavapany as the chair.
The objectives of ICAC were to galvanize the Indian Community to come together and create opportunities for ex-drug offenders to start afresh and lead a life of worth and dignity.
In collaboration with Singapore Prison Services (SPS), the Council recruited 60 volunteers to date. Upon training the volunteers would become “Befrienders”.
Launch of ICAC
The Council was formally launched on 17 January 2015 by Minister S Iswaran (Minister, Prime Minister’s Office, Second Minister for Home Affairs and Second Minister for Trade and Industry). The launch was combined with a public forum to which stakeholders & community partners were invited.
In his address Minister Iswaran said that ‘In the last five years, an average of 9,230 offenders was released from prison annually. The average recidivism rate has been about 26%. This means that, over the last five years, about 1 in 4 of those released committed a crime and returned to prison within 2 years. The experience of MHA and the Singapore Prison Service with ex-offenders has shown that factors such as family support, employment and housing are critical in supporting an ex-offender’s reintegration into society, and reducing his or her propensity to re-offend’.
The Minister added that,’ The ICAC is now poised at a juncture, similar to SINDA more than 20 years ago, where it needs the community’s support and involvement. While it is ultimately the individual’s responsibility to stay away from drugs and crime, the community and volunteers like you, have an important role to play in steering them towards the right path. Let us work together to help ex-offenders succeed in their journey of rehabilitation and reintegration’
In his remarks, Ambassador Kesavapany said that he was very pleased with the response from the community. He also said that, ‘The mandate given to the Council was to secure 30 volunteers to be trained by Singapore Prison Services (SPS). I am happy to say that this number has been exceeded and we have 60 over volunteers. Of these, 20 have been trained by Singapore Prison Services (SPS) and in the process of being matched’.
The Chairman also recognised The Hindu Endowments Board (HEB) for its generous funding support towards this cause.
In the panel discussion, the presence of the Commissioner of Prisons, Mr Soh Wai Wah was most gratifying. The commissioner took pains to provide clear and succinct answers to questions from the participants.
Dr Ganapathy, Chairman of The HEB Ashram and member of ICAC, spoke of halfway house facilities provided to ex-drug offenders on their release from Prisons.
Ms Yasho, Head of the Hindu Centre Mitra programme highlighted the success achieved in rehabilitating several ex-drug offenders.
All in all, the move by SINDA to establish the Council was hailed by the participants as major initiative in dealing with the problem of reintegration of ex-drug offenders.