Ex-offenders can be assets in nation-building

Road shows have been conspicuously deployed at various locations islandwide in order to increase public awareness of the Yellow Ribbon Project ("Rolling out message of second chances"; Oct 21).

Over the years, the Singapore Prison Service - in forging a close partnership with the Singapore Corporation of Rehabilitative Enterprises - has worked towards rehabilitating former offenders, which includes re-integrating them into society.

Former offenders who genuinely repent certainly deserve a second chance. Our society should be more forgiving and compassionate towards them.

Unfortunately, entrenched mindsets are pervasive and persist to this day. Many former convicts, upon their release from prison, battle social stigma throughout their lives. They are ostracised, discriminated against or treated with contempt by some.

A gracious society should show compassion, empathy, understanding and forgiveness towards former offenders who are determined to turn over a new leaf.

It is comforting to note that our Government has set a good example by taking the lead in offering employment to some of these former convicts.

Private-sector employers should also actively recruit former offenders. Employers large and small should assist the Government in shouldering the responsibility of re-integrating them into our society.

Former convicts who are not gainfully employed due to discrimination may lapse into depression or slip back into a life of crime.

Our people are our country's most important resource. We can ill-afford to neglect this group of people who can also contribute to our country's economic development.

Former offenders should be looked upon as an asset rather than a liability in our nation-building efforts.

Catherine Tai Siew Leng (Ms)