Malay/Muslim organisations set up new network to improve support for offenders, ex-offenders

A file photo of inmates at Changi Prison. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Every week, volunteers from non-profit organisation New Life Stories visit parents in prison to record them reading stories as well as getting them to write their own books to be read to their children.

Groups like this are now banding together to better support offenders, ex-offenders and their families. A network of 25 Malay/Muslim organisations was launched on Tuesday (Nov 30) to provide services such as counselling, rehabilitation and aftercare aid.

The network was launched by three key organisations serving the Malay/Muslim community - Mendaki, Muis (Islamic Religious Council of Singapore) and Mesra (People's Association Malay Activity Executive Committees Council), collectively known as M³.

It is supported by the Ministry of Home Affairs and 11 M³ towns, including Tampines, Toa Payoh and Geylang Serai.

Speaking at the launch on Tuesday, Minister of State for Home Affairs Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim said that the network shows the community's strength and unity to help offenders.

"The role of preventing offending and reoffending is not easy. It cannot be taken on by just one or two organisations... You need the strong support of family and community partners," he said.

"Now we need to focus on strengthening our collaboration and efforts so that it will be effective in preventing offending," he added.

Ms Saleemah Ismail, executive director of New Life Stories, said Malay/Muslim organisations have the context to be culturally sensitive and understand the various factors that lead to incarceration. So, it is important that they step up to serve this community of vulnerable individuals.

"We have to be sitting at the table to direct the narrative of our community. It is important for Malay/Muslim organisations to be in leadership positions at a national level to address the inter-generational social disadvantages from incarceration," she added.

Since April, members of organisations in the network have met in focus groups and a townhall session to discuss ways to improve support for beneficiaries.

They learnt that coordinated support for families was lacking, and resources were untapped or under-utilised. Greater collaborations and networking were needed to help offenders and prevent re-offending.

Jamiyah Halfway House chairman Isa Hassan said: "This kind of networking is important. If we know a particular resident needs counselling for a specific issue, we can tap resources of the different partners to get him help immediately."

Associate Professor Faishal said that the number of Malay/Muslim volunteers in the community grew from about 60 in 2015 to more than 450 in 2020. The 750 per cent surge in volunteerism reflects the community's greater awareness and support.

"With this network we can not only do more, but do better," he added.

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