‘Give chance to ex-convicts’

National 3 minutes, 20 seconds


FORMER inmates should be given a chance by their family members- and the society as well- to redeem themselves so they won’t become recidivists or repeat offenders.

This was shared by Koh Shu Kai, the Assistant Director (Community Relations) CARE Network Office from Singapore at the Prison Department’s inaugural seminar on rehabilitation and after care for prisoners at the Centrepoint Hotel in Gadong yesterday.

He presented his paper “Yellow Ribbon Project (YRP): Garnering Community Support for Offenders’ Reintegration”, which upholds three A’s for awareness, acceptance and action.

“Awareness – on giving second chances to former inmates; acceptance – the community’s acceptance of a former inmate and family, and action – ensuring the community works together with the former inmate and family,” the presentation read.

Koh’s presentation aimed to share how YRP worked and how Brunei too could successfully create a network of community that supports an inmate’s re-integration into society.

Formed in 2004, YRP was established as a community engagement campaign and catalyst to bring about societal acceptance for former inmates and their families.

“The YRP aims to provide a concerted and coordinated approach to create awareness, generate acceptance and inspire action within the community to support the rehabilitation and reintegration of ex-offenders,” he said.

“For many ex-offenders, the real challenge begins the day they leave the prison door,” he added.

“Rehabilitation efforts within prison are not enough as ex-offenders tend to return to society upon their release, so it is important that the community is willing to accept them,” he stressed.

He gave an example that in Singapore, about 10,000 inmates may be freed every year.

If every inmate had at least four family members who are reluctant to support the inmate, then 10,000 multiplied by four is equal to about 40,000 people looking down on the inmates.

But raising awareness and changing the community’s mindset is not a simple task, and one course of action the project took to raise awareness was by “inviting the media”.

In his presentation, he showed an article which reads: “More than 2,300 notes sent to families asking for forgiveness – and yellow ribbons for acceptance”.

The media can also feature success stories of inmates fitting back to society and become role models for other inmates to follow.

The Singapore Corporation of Rehabilitative Enterprises (SCORE), in an online interview, confirmed that media play a major role in the success of the YRP in Singapore.

“Through active engagement with the media on various YRP events and initiatives, we are able to reach out to the wider community. This creates greater public awareness on the campaign and spreads the message of how everyone can play a part to support ex-offenders in their reintegration journey,” a SCORE representative said.

One of these inspirational stories Koh showed in his presentation included Mr Chong, a reformed addict who once crushed his ankles after leaping from a flat to escape the police. Chong had joined a 21-km triathlon to to raise funds for the Yellow Ribbon Fund.

There was also an article of a Darren Tan, who was jailed for 10 years, canned 19 times and then went on from jail to study law at the National University of Singapore (NUS).

Speaking to The Brunei Times, Pg Omar Pg Hj Othman, the Head of Prison Counselling Aftercare Section under the Prisons Department, shared that they learnt so much from the invited speakers and hinted the possibility of replicating the YRP.

Alhamdulillah the seminar has been a great success. Although this does not necessarily mean the seminar will be held every year, we do plan on organising a forum or even our version of the YRP next year,” he said. “We will look at the situation to see whether there is a need for it and which part of the project could be introduced to Brunei.”

Also present at the seminar was the Acting Director of Prisons, Hj Ismail Hj Murat, who presented certificates to the invited speakers from Singapore and Malaysia and representatives of local agencies.

The Brunei Times