Make families a core part of rehab process in prisons

Ms Theresa Tan's commentary was touching indeed (When prisoners return to being fathers, husbands and sons; Oct 20).

Today, the bulk of family interactions in Changi Prison are confined to tele-visits, letters, or face-to-face visits with a glass panel in between.

Rarely have I heard of open visits in the prison. This programme to help inmates communicate with their loved ones needs to be extended to Changi Women's Prison too.

Do we really need evidence to show that love, understanding and trust is what humans need to lead responsible, constructive and functional lives?

It is primarily weak biological, psychological, and social structures that generate and sustain criminals and criminal activities.

Thus, we need more medical and social instruments at the national level to help prevent young ones from embarking on detrimental and harmful behaviour and, if they do, to help rehabilitate and reintegrate them.

We need to use less of the instruments of punishment.

Do we really need evidence to show that love, understanding and trust is what humans need to lead responsible, constructive and functional lives? It is primarily weak biological, psychological, and social structures that generate and sustain criminals and criminal activities.

Singapore has been slow in making family visits and family therapy a regular occurrence and core strategy in helping prisoners on their journey of rehabilitation and reintegration. Such an approach should be taken as soon as they are incarcerated.

If the programme shows potential for effectiveness, let us seize the opportunity and run with it in a big way.

But voluntary welfare organisations should not be the ones taking the lead. The Ministry of Home Affairs and Singapore Prison Service need to assume this responsibility as part of their core strategy to help prisoners.

Perhaps the Ministry of Social and Family Development and Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth can also be on board, in an inter-ministerial effort together with the voluntary welfare organisations.

K. Kuharajahsingam

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 23, 2017, with the headline 'Make families a core part of rehab process in prisons'. Print Edition | Subscribe