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Singapore in Numbers - Singapore's Prison Population

Prisons are part of the broader legal system in a country. Starting with the police force who educate people of the laws and enforce the law where needed, followed by the judicial system who objectively determine the innocence and guilt of the crimes and determines the sentences; and if deemed necessary some of the convicted persons may end up in prisons. Beyond these general perceptions, the general public may not know much more about the the prison population in Singapore. FYT will be exploring this very topic in this segment.

Did you know...

  • There are 6,934 people in Singapore prisons as at 2020 and has been gradually falling since 2012 (9,901)

  • Drug related offences make up the majority of the inmates (67% or 4,646)

  • Men make up 90% of the prisoner population

  • Most inmates are less educated, 80% having primary or secondary educational attainment

  • Singapore's incarceration rates has also been falling. There are 194 inmates per 100,000 residents in 2020, as opposed to 269 about 10 years prior. Singapore ranks 70 among over 200 countries in incarceration rates.

However, the prisoner population by itself may not be a good indicator of ongoing trends, it includes inmates admitted for crimes committed many years ago as well as more recently. The prisoner populate is not a static number; it is dynamic. New inmates are admitted for recent crimes, inmates who completed serving their sentences are released and some inmates return to prison after a while.

  • 6,219 inmates were admitted in 2020; 7,332 inmates were released in the same year

    • Penal admissions have been dropping over time; from over 18,000 in 2012

    • Penal releases have also benn dropping over time as well; from over 20,000 in 2012. But consistently remains higher than admissions; hence the progressively lower prisoner population

  • However, the prison admission profile by offence is far different from the existing population

    • Drug offences form a much smaller proportion; they make up 15.5% of admissions compared with 67% in the population

    • More even distribution of offences in admissions in recent years

  • 88% of prison admissions are male; which is consistent with the current prison population

  • 65% of prison admissions have primary or secondary educational attainment; new inmates appear to have more education/training

But the Singapore Prisons is not just about incarceration, it is also about rehabilitation.

  • 3,045 or about 50% of inmates are placed in community based programmes as part of their rehabilitation; with 90-95% completion rates for such programmes

  • 441 inmates furthered their education while in prison in 2020; more specifically their 'N' and 'O' level certifications

Given Singapore's shrinking population, human resources are getting scarce and will remain to be scarce for years or decades to come. While inmates represent only 0.19% of Singapore's residents; they are a potential source of human resources that, if rehabilitated effectively, they can contribute to the nation's growth while rebuilding their lives as members of society.

The data revealed many new fascinating insights about the Singapore Prisons that was new to FYT as well. If you want to learn more, simply click on any of the visualizations to explore the interactive dashboards.

All data was sourced from

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