Having a job a cornerstone in keeping ex-inmates from reoffending: Halimah

The Hope Cafe is a kitchen and restaurant in Changi Prison Complex where inmates undergo hands-on training in culinary skills and food and beverage operations to enable them to take up jobs in the hospitality industry in future.
The Hope Cafe is a kitchen and restaurant in Changi Prison Complex where inmates undergo hands-on training in culinary skills and food and beverage operations to enable them to take up jobs in the hospitality industry in future.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

SINGAPORE - Offenders seem to be increasingly aware that getting a job after being released from jail will help prevent them from drifting back into the criminal life.

The point was made by President Halimah Yacob on a visit to Changi Prison Complex on Wednesday (Aug 7) and underscored by figures showing that 2,336 inmates sought employment assistance from the Singapore Corporation of Rehabilitative Enterprises (Score) last year.

Score, a statutory board, said that 96 per cent of them secured a job before their release.

President Halimah noted that 60 per cent of these former offenders were able to keep their jobs for at least six months.

She added that having a job is a cornerstone in keeping former inmates from reoffending, and called on employers to give former offenders a chance to reintegrate into society.

"Looking at the whole range of activities, including employment, pre-employment and skills training provided for the inmates, I think the more important aspect of it is that more employers are coming forward to support this initiative," said Madam Halimah.

"Together, I think we can do a lot to support their journey, such as through Score and Yellow Ribbon as well as the support of prison authorities, and definitely through the community."

Madam Halimah also visited the Hope Cafe, a kitchen and restaurant where inmates undergo hands-on training in culinary skills and food and beverage operations to enable them to take up jobs in the hospitality industry in future.

She also observed a job placement exercise facilitated by Score, where employers are invited to the Changi Prison Complex to interview the inmates two weeks prior to their release.

Ms Ramona Rahman, 29, who was convicted of drug-related offences in 2018, went through the exercise after taking courses to prepare her for the working world.

 
 
 
 

At the beginning of the year, she secured a job at fast-food chain Wingstop Singapore upon her release and has worked at its VivoCity outlet for about six months.

"I was afraid that they would not accept me and that I could not perform well. But I got it and I decided to give it a try and overcome my difficulties," said Ms Ramona, who is a single-mother of three children aged four, seven and 10.

"It has helped me financially to support my mother who was working to support me and my kids."

Score also assigns coaches to former offenders for the first 12 months after their release. They work closely with the former inmates and employers to provide support and resolve work-related issues.

Wingstop Singapore human resources director Chia Tze Yong said: "We have about nine employees in our six outlets who are ex-offenders.

"It is an alternate source for us to find employees and we see it as an opportunity to do something for society. What makes it very easy for us is that we have very good support from Score."

"At the end of the day, they are just like anybody that we can hire; there are no differences."