PETALING JAYA: The country's parole system has seen a success rate of 98% in curbing recidivism, where most parolees have been gainfully employed upon being released from prison, says Prison Department director-general Datuk Ibrisam Abdul Rahman.
Citing from the Parole Department and Community Services, Ibrisam said that from 2008 till June 23 this year, 41,179 parolees have been employed after serving their respective sentences, with a rate of recidivism of merely 0.44%.
"Those who are in our integration programme, 98% of them were employed, either by the employers we arranged for or jobs that are found by themselves.
"We found them being able to sustain themselves in the community because they have already been assisted in our reintegration programme," he said.
Ibrisam was speaking during a roundtable discussion by the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) on "Reintegrating former inmates into society" that was held via the Zoom teleconferencing app on Thursday (June 24).
With the success of the Prisons Department's integration programme, Ibrisam hopes for the programme to be further diversified along with more support from the community and the government.
He pointed out there was a lack of support from Muslim NGOs at the moment, as he stressed that former inmates, who he described as a "vulnerable group", also needed public support in order to be reintegrated into society.
Ibrisam said in most developed countries, NGOs always work hand in hand with inmates and prison officials.
"These people need help. But we see there is a lack of concern and support given to them. If we don't help them, they can easily relapse into a life of crime and drugs and they will be a virus to society.
"It is much better if we help them rather than just letting them be (to) return to a life of crime and continue to pose a threat to society and country."
Ibrisam also stressed that there must be government policies and better social welfare programmes that can assist former convicts to reintegrate into society.
Meanwhile, lawyer Sangeet Kaur Deo, who was representing the all-party parliamentary reform group, stressed that any criminal justice system must incorporate a comprehensive reintegration policy.
"Our criminal justice system has law enforcement agencies which are the police and the prosecution and then the courts, which is the judiciary.
"The correction process involves the prison. But, without the final process of reintegrating them back to community, the process is incomplete," she said.
"It becomes an incomplete system where it will set an ex-offender up for failure." she added.
Pointing out the realities of the social stigma that most parolees faced, Sangeet said there would definitely be challenges in gaining employment and furthering education.
"What is fundamental here is the access to healthcare and social services programmes," she said.
Sangeet said the failure to provide support in the early weeks of a parolees' release from prison has appeared to be a cause for convicts reoffending.
Sangeet called for a structured government policy on reintegrating former convicts, describing it as a crucial element of the nation's criminal justice system.
"It must also involve the participation of relevant ministries, agencies and have adequate funding," she added.
At the same time, Sangeet also called for government and private sector partnership in providing gainful employment for parolees, adding that private companies should be given incentives for hiring former inmates.
At present, Sangeet pointed out that most reintegration efforts are being pursued by NGOs that often have issues with funding.
"The reintegration process must not be seen as charity. It has to be a government initiative. It is also essential to point out that a failed reintegration is a threat to public safety," she added.
Meanwhile, Malaysian Care community development coordinator Sam Lim said that most inmates struggle to obtain a steady job, given the general reluctance to hire a person with a criminal past, limited level of education, limited work experiences and inadequate job skills.
"One of the former inmates I met said he has been peddling drugs all his life and he has no other skills. The facilitator and I were taken aback," he added.
Lim said the lack of support from family members is often a contributing cause to recidivism, as well as social stigma.
Lim said the public must understand that parolees must not be sidelined and ostracised by society in their process of being reintegrated back into society.
"If we look back at the statistics, the number of people coming into society as ex-offenders will increase each year," he said.
"So I would like to call on everyone to look at this point (importance of reintegrating parolees into society)," he added.
The parole system was introduced in Malaysia in 2008 to address issues of recidivism in former convicts and also to alleviate prison overcrowding issues.