Life in the Detention Barracks: What You can Expect
The SAF Detention Barracks (SAFDB/DB) serves as the army prison, and is located next to Kranji Camp. Charged servicemen who are sentenced to serve time in DB are forced to live within its cells according to the duration of their sentence. For Summary Trials, upon receiving one’s sentencing in the Commanding Officer’s office, the charged serviceman is then marched out to a railed transport vehicle. In most cases for General Court Martials (GCM), the detainees are usually already under close arrest and will have their heads shaved prior to the hearing. He will then be transferred to DB to serve his time. During that period, he is known as a detainee. At any given time, there is an estimated 150 detainees in DB. These include SAF Regulars and National Servicemen.
How detainees are classified
Detainees can expect to be classified differently based on their sentence duration and fitness level, or even your behaviour in the course of your sentence which in turn may entitle you to different privileges.
Role of Military Police (MPs) in DB
The role of the MP in DB ranges from escorting detainees out of DB for court martial, medical check-ups, appointments etc. where necessary, processing family and military visitors, handling detainees within the cell blocks and conducting regimes.
Formalities within DB
All detainees must follow a strict dress code. For most detainees, they will wear yellow shirts and blue shorts.
All detainees must address any MPs as “Sir” no matter what the rank of the MP is.
Detainees are always handcuffed whenever they are escorted outside their cell blocks.
Living Conditions within DB
Each cell block usually consists of 3 detainees, who are each provided with a sleeping floor mat and a blanket. The size of each cell is small because a part of the cell is taken up by a communal cubical for showering etc.
Detainees are not allowed to track the time; hence no one is allowed to bring in their handphones or watches, including MPs.
Food provided within the DB will be similar to that of a serviceman not in custody since that is provided for by the SAF (Disciplinary Barracks) Regulation. Section 23 of the Regulation also stipulates that a detainee’s diet may be restricted in cases of misbehaviour.
Detainees who have passed their medical examination and are certified fit for physical training will be subject to regimentation. This consists of both the sandbag regime and Physical Training (PT).
Further punishments within the SAF
Under Section 23 of the SAF (Disciplinary Barracks) Regulation, a detainee who commits a minor DB offence may be subjected to further punishments such as extra work and drill for a period not exceeding 7 days, or a close confinement for a period not exceeding 3 days.
Detainees who are deemed to pose a threat to others or to themselves may be confined in a padded isolation cell instead.
Possible privileges allowed in DB
If the detainee demonstrates good behaviour for a period of time, he may receive a few privileges, which are subject to recommendation by MPs and approval by the Commanding Officer (CO). These privileges include, but are not limited to:
Being able to participate in classes like art/ religious classes; and
Being granted open visitation where they can have physical contact with family members.
In recent years, DB has focused on rehabilitation, by organizing one-off events such as games and friendly competitions between detainees. There are also events during key occasions such as CNY and Deepavali, where catered food is provided.
Ultimately, a detainee with good behaviour can have up to a third of his/her sentence reduced.
The treatment of detainees today comes in tandem with a heightened focus towards the rehabilitation of servicemen. However, a sentence in DB remains a severe punishment that servicemen should strive to avoid.