Minister calls for community initiative to reduce crimes

James Kon

Brunei’s current prison population comprises inmates whose highest convictions are for theft and drug offences, said Minister of Home Affairs Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Kerna Dato Seri Setia (Dr) Haji Awang Abu Bakar bin Haji Apong, in a speech yesterday to mark the 66th anniversary of the Prisons Department.

“This is a cause for concern, especially when youth are involved. Therefore, it is imperative that the Prisons Department should continue to work together with other agencies, including mukim penghulus and village heads, to reduce the occurrence of these cases within the community,” he said.

“One of the efforts to be undertaken by the Prisons Department in this direction is to reduce the rate of recidivism, or reimprisonment. I understand that the Prisons Department achieved its target key performance indicator (KPI) based on the rate of the recidivist cohort of 15.73 per cent in 2015, which declined to 9.69 per cent for 2016 cohort and continue to drop to 7.77 per cent for 2017 cohort.”

“Alhamdulillah, this drop in recidivism for cohorts in the period of three years, from 2015 to 2017, shows that a large part of the Prisons Department’s reform programme for in-care and aftercare has made a positive impact on the inmates. It is hope that the Prisons Department can achieve its KPI target in successfully reducing the rate of recidivism to under 15 per cent for the 2020 cohort.

“In the attempts at rehabilitation, it is clear that spiritual programmes tend to have a deep impact on inmates. On this note, we are thankful that Al-Quran recitation and memorisation programme has received encouraging responses.”

Currently, 11 local inmates in the Al-Quran Memorisation Programme have memorised up to eight Juzuks. Additionally, the Khatam Al-Quran Programme, which is held every three months, has proven to be beneficial in instiling the habit of reciting Al-Quran among Muslim inmates. “With regards to the Al-Quran Memorisation Programme, I would suggest that the Prisons Department work together with the relevant parties in studying the appropriate methods for improving the motivation, strength and flow of the inmates’ memorisation techniques.

“One of the important aspects of the rehabilitation programme is the after-care programme. Society acceptance is most important in making sure that inmates, on their release from prison, will be accepted as active members of the community. Aftercare rehabilitation programmes play an important role in reducing the rate of recidivism. Based on 2019 statistics, 14 former inmates ventured into business, 12 became entrepreneurs and 22 are employed in the private sector.

“In the efforts to boost revenue for former inmates, a showroom was officially launched at the Beribi Light Industrial Area on October 17, 2019. Ten former inmates were involved in this project, which produced an array of goods. Our highest appreciation goes to the Brunei Malay Chamber of Commerce and Industry for their cooperation and support towards the initiative.

“This project should be continued and further developed, to guarantee a stable and continuous source of income for former inmates. At the same time, it also facilitates the process of integrating of former inmates into the community.”

He continued, “We also witnessed another achievement made by the Prisons Department with the launching of the ‘INSAF’ logo brand, during the Open Day and Dialogue Session between the Ministry of Home Affairs and members of the Legislative Council in January this year. Among the aims of the use of the logo is to boost the market for the Prisons Department’s handicraft products. It is important that the quality of handicraft products should be improved and maintained, every now and then.”

The minister also noted the Prisons Department’s readiness “in meeting the challenges of organisational transformation, which include improvement in the aspects of detention, rehabilitation, staff training, prison facilities and the integration of former prison inmates. In addition, the Prisons Department is currently reviewing and planning initiatives such as the Mandatory Attendance Order and the Parole System with the relevant stakeholders, to establish a community corrections programme beyond the prison walls.

“On the occasion of the 66th anniversary of the Prisons Department this year, as a prestigious uniformed force, it is important that its officers and staff are constantly well-disciplined, competent, honest, trustworthy and not involved in unproductive activities such as corruption and drug abuse, by adhering to the teachings of Islam and the principles of the Malay Islamic Monarchy (MIB). Strict action must be taken immediately on any officer or staff involved in crime and in violation of work regulations.

“To further strengthen prison management, the Prisons Department must plan for a systematic Human Resources development. In facing the 4th Industrial Revolution, the Prisons Department needs to rethink its policy and strategy to address the work requirements that will change in the future. This will not only impact the working methods of the officers and staff, but also change the variety in skill sets training for prison inmates who are undergoing rehabilitation programmes. In this regard, I would urge all members of the Prisons Department to constantly explore broader knowledge, in addition to being innovative, resilient and confident, while expanding efforts in the improvement of services.

“To encourage the motivation for this momentum of transformation, the Prisons Department will introduce two initiatives. The first is the Best Correctional Institution Award, in encouraging healthy competition among prison institutions to put focus on the efforts of creating an efficient management system, effective rehabilitation programme, a positive work culture and achieving high industry standards.

“The second initiative is the Correctional Innovation Award, which will encourage all staff and officers to explore and try new ideas in producing more innovative programmes and contribute to the development of the department as a whole. Such programmes are expected to boost the working spirit, motivation and discipline among staff and officers of the
Prisons Department.”