Focus on rehabilitation of inmates the right move

Deputy Commissioner of Prisons Shie Yong Lee.
Deputy Commissioner of Prisons Shie Yong Lee.ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

I applaud the Singapore Prison Service's (SPS) plan to commence rehabilitation of its inmates from the outset of their admission (Turning jail into a place where inmates work for a new life, Aug 25).

I think SPS has chosen the right approach in prioritising rehabilitation over everything else during the inmates' incarceration.

Every Singaporean inmate is important to the country. These inmates have to be thoroughly rehabilitated, disciplined and equipped with the necessary knowledge and skills before they walk out of the prisons' gates after serving their sentences.

As for the fear of diminished punitive effect of a prison sentence if rehabilitation is overemphasised, I concur with Deputy Commissioner of Prisons Shie Yong Lee that the loss of freedom and incarceration in themselves are sufficient punitive measures. Of course, if the inmates break the rules and regulations of the prisons, they should be adequately punished in accordance with the rules after a proper adjudication process.

With SPS' initiative, inmates coming out of prison and the drug rehabilitation centre will be better equipped to find jobs to support themselves and their families.

But employers, including the Government, should be prepared to absorb the inmates into the labour force, thus helping SPS in the rehabilitation processes.

As a retired prison officer, I would like to stress that the rehabilitation of inmates in our prisons is not the sole responsibility of the SPS, but a collective effort of SPS, employers and the community.

The core job of SPS is rehabilitation, but it cannot do the job alone.

Pavithran Vidyadharan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 29, 2019, with the headline 'Focus on rehabilitation of inmates the right move'. Print Edition | Subscribe