When Ahmad (not his real name) was incarcerated last year, his biggest worry was whether his six children would be properly cared for.
The 34-year-old divorcee, who was arrested for consuming Ice, or methamphetamine, expressed his concerns to his case worker while serving a one-year sentence, of which six months were at the Drug Rehabilitation Center (DRC).
His case worker from the Association of Muslim Professionals (AMP) visited his home often and provided additional support to his parents, who were helping to care for his children, aged between nine and 14. The case worker helped to enroll them in student care centers , and applied for financial assistance for Ahmad.
He is one of over 180 inmates who have benefited from a Development and Reintegration Program, launched by Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs Amrin Amin yesterday at an event held at Wisma Geylang Serai.
The initiative, first piloted last year, is a collaboration between the Singapore Prison Service and AMP to offer support to Malay / Muslim inmates in the DRC and their families.
Sharing what he called "grim" facts in his speech, Mr Amrin said seven in 10 inmates in prison have a drug antecedent. But while drug abuse affects all communities, the Malay community is over-represented, he said, adding that last year, more than one in two drug abusers arrested were Malay.
"The proportion of Malays among new drug abusers has also increased, from 36 per cent in 2007 to 50 per cent in 2017. This has to stop."
Mr Amrin said the program provides continuity of care from prisons to after release, with the aim of preventing re-offending. "While the foundations of rehabilitation start inside prisons, support from the community is a scaffold that allows sustainable support for ex-offenders beyond the prison walls."
He called for more Malay / Muslim organizations to step forward to support drug offenders and their families, and advocate the anti-drug message.
Under the program, each inmate is managed by a case worker during the incarceration phase. The inmate undergoes a personal development program with topics like financial literacy and parenting.
Case workers also help inmates' family members by giving financial planning advice and helping them to be financially independent.
For up to a year after release, case workers will meet inmates at least once a month, and work with them on strategies to avoid re-offending.
In Ahmad's case, the program helped him with matters outside prison, such as his rental flat payments, giving him peace of mind to return to work.
Ahmad, who was formerly a security supervisor, will undergo a professional conversion course to become a lift technician.
"My worry is about work. I have kids and it is hard for me to get a good job. (But) if I have a problem, I can meet the case worker to talk."