Hugs and kisses for mums in prison

Some women inmates of Changi Prison got to hold their children at a special open visit yesterday. Normally, they see and talk to each other with a glass panel between them or via video conferencing technology.
Some women inmates of Changi Prison got to hold their children at a special open visit yesterday. Normally, they see and talk to each other with a glass panel between them or via video conferencing technology.ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR
Some women inmates of Changi Prison got to hold their children at a special open visit yesterday. Normally, they see and talk to each other with a glass panel between them or via video conferencing technology.
Some women inmates of Changi Prison got to hold their children at a special open visit yesterday. Normally, they see and talk to each other with a glass panel between them or via video conferencing technology.ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR
Some women inmates of Changi Prison got to hold their children at a special open visit yesterday. Normally, they see and talk to each other with a glass panel between them or via video conferencing technology.
Some women inmates of Changi Prison got to hold their children at a special open visit yesterday. Normally, they see and talk to each other with a glass panel between them or via video conferencing technology.ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

Visit under Salvation Army's family-bonding scheme allows inmates to hold their kids

Aisyah (not her real name), 31, is in prison but is grateful for the support she has.

Her mother-in-law has taken care of her six children, with ages ranging from four to 11 years, since she was sentenced in 2015 to five years in jail for drug-related offences.

Aisyah was first arrested at the age of 16 in 2003, and then again in 2014 and 2015.

Yesterday, tears flowed freely as she and 11 other prisoners met their children during a special open visit at Institution A4 within the Changi Prison Complex, which houses Singapore's only women's prison.

During the open visit, mothers could hug and hold their children without physical barriers between them. "This is my first time," said Aisyah, who has neither hugged nor touched her children since 2015.

"I feel happy and sad at the same time," she added.

Like Aisyah, many of the inmates have not had physical contact with their children for years.


The Salvation Army Kids in Play Family Bonding Event aims to promote family bonding and keep inmates motivated with family support. ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

When the children entered the room where their mothers were waiting, not a second was spared. The children darted towards familiar faces and into fierce hugs, kisses and chatter to make up for lost time.

 

DIFFICULT SITUATION

From our work with the families, issues they face include financial difficulties that the family might suddenly have to face. Caregiver stress is also quite high.

MR REYNARD LYE, centre manager for Salvation Army Prison Support Services.

Families may visit the inmates twice a month, where they can choose either one face-to-face visit and one tele-visit, or two tele-visits.

Face-to-face visits are separated by a glass panel, while tele-visits allow visitors to see and talk to an inmate through television,via video conferencing technology.

The occasion yesterday was the culmination of a family-bonding programme organised by the Salvation Army to help inmates and their families build stronger ties.

It aims to keep inmates motivated with family support and prevent the breakdown of the family unit resulting from the effects of parental incarceration.

"From our work with the families, issues they face include financial difficulties that the family might suddenly have to face," said Mr Reynard Lye, centre manager for Salvation Army Prison Support Services, during the event. "Caregiver stress is also quite high."

A spokesman for the Singapore Prison Service said without proper support, children of inmates may struggle with self-identity and are at risk of becoming anti-social or face difficulty coping with school.


Selected female inmates at Changi Prison will have the opportunity to interact with their children without a physical barrier between them at Changi Prison, on June 1, 2018. ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

The service has been working with community partners to run family bonding programmes.

As of December last year, there were 815 inmates with children under the age of 16.

For Aisyah's children, there was joy in seeing their mother in person. "The best thing about today was that we got to hug her," said her 11-year-old son.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 02, 2018, with the headline 'Hugs and kisses for mums in prison'. Print Edition | Subscribe