Helping ex-offenders reintegrate into society

President Halimah Yacob interacting with inmates during her visit to the Hope Cafe, a training kitchen and restaurant in Changi Prison Complex where inmates undergo hands-on training in culinary skills and food and beverage operations - to enable the
President Halimah Yacob interacting with inmates during her visit to the Hope Cafe, a training 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.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

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

The point was made by President Halimah Yacob during a visit to Changi Prison Complex yesterday, and underscored by figures showing that 2,336 inmates sought employment assistance from the Singapore Corporation of Rehabilitative Enterprise (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 vital for former inmates in keeping them from re-offending, and also 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 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.

 
 
 
 

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

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

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

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

Score also assigns coaches to former offenders for the first 12 months after their release. These coaches work closely with the former inmates and their 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.

"We see it as an opportunity to do something for society. What makes it easy for us is that we have very good support from Score.

"At the end of the day, (the ex-offenders) are just like anybody that we can hire; there are no differences."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 08, 2019, with the headline 'Helping ex-offenders reintegrate into society'. Print Edition | Subscribe