SINGAPORE – Unlike what is standard procedure for those imprisoned elsewhere in Singapore, inmates at the Selarang Park Complex need not be escorted by prison officers to access several areas in it.
For example, they only have to scan their wrist-tags and their faces at turnstiles located between two of the complex’s facilities before they are allowed through.
This is possible due to extensive closed-circuit television (CCTV) coverage of the facilities and the use of facial recognition technology.
Selarang Park Complex, which was officially opened on Thursday (April 22), became fully operational in September last year.
It comprises several facilities, including a Drug Rehabilitation Centre (DRC) for drug offenders.
The complex is the first and currently the only prison site in the country to use facial recognition technology, said the Singapore Prisons Services (SPS).
DRC inmates go through psychology-based correctional programmes and skills training, as well as family support and religious services.
The technology used in the complex is part of the SPS’ “Prison Without Guards” strategy, which aims to boost operational efficiency and enable prison officers to focus on inmate rehabilitation.
Facial recognition technology can also be used to remotely conduct muster checks – headcounts of inmates in their cells – to complement the routine physical muster checks by prison officers.
Images of the inmates would be captured through CCTV cameras in their cells, with any discrepancies between these images and those in the prison database highlighted to prison staff. “Additionally, facial recognition capabilities also facilitate the detection of unauthorised access at strategic locations,” said the SPS.
The agency also said using facial recognition technology has reduced the time and effort required for physical muster checks and escort duties within the complex.
“As a result, prison officers are availed to perform higher-order functions in rehabilitation and operations,” added the SPS.
The use of advanced video analytics to detect fighting between inmates in cells is expected to be piloted at the complex’s DRC in July.
Utilising CCTV cameras in cells, the analytics system will alert prison officers when it picks up aggressive body movements.
An analytics system that will detect irregular behaviour – such as an inmate suddenly collapsing- at the complex’s common areas is also in the works.
The SPS said it is seeking to pilot this system at the DRC’s passageways.
Electronic tablets are also provided to the inmates to allow them to read e-books and write e-letters to friends and family, among other things.
A 30-year-old inmate said he did not have any problems getting used to the technology implemented at the complex, adding that facial recognition technology can already be found in smartphones.
“The challenge is for the older inmates,” he added.
Superintendent 1A Terence Ong, who oversees the complex’s DRC, said: “Inmates face challenges in reintegration, such as maintaining employment and staying away from antisocial peers.”
He also said that the SPS will continue to work with its community partners, such as halfway houses, to provide inmates with structure support and supervision to prevent them from reoffending.
Facilities in Selarang Park Complex
The Selarang Park Complex was officially opened by Minister for Home Affairs K Shanmugam on Thursday. Among the facilities are the following:
Drug Rehabilitation Centre (DRC)
– currently houses first- and second-time DRC inmates
– can house up to 1,480 inmates
– came into operation in September last year
Work Release Centre
– provides a step-down environment to help inmates on community based programmes (CBP) reintegrate into society
– can house up to 1,200inmates
– came into operation in July last year
Selarang Halfway House
– first government-run halfway house facility
– provides structured aftercare support and a conducive rehabilitative environment for selected high-risk ex-offenders on the mandatory aftercare scheme
– also offers a residential and recovery programme for inmates on CBP
– officially opened on Jan 11, 2019
Selarang Park Community Supervision Centre
– functions as a reporting centre for urine tests and a facility for CBP inmates to be released following the completion of their programmes
– houses the Yellow Ribbon Singapore Employment Assistance Unit, which provides employment-related support such as job matching to inmates and ex-offenders
– came into operation in July last year
– will be activated to house inmates with highly contagious diseases, such as Covid-19, away from the main prison population
– can house up to 120 inmates
– came into operation in April last year