|Home Team Volunteers Network Chairman Assoc Prof Ho Peng Kee (second row, fourth from right), Home Team Volunteers and Singapore Prison Service officers got together for the network’s “Walking with the Home Team” series of visits. PHOTO: Haikal Jamari|
A soulful voice filled the stage in harmony with a rhythmic crash of cymbals and the strums of a guitar.
Singing their hearts out, a group of five male singers and their accompanying band received rousing applause from the audience once the last note was sung.
A description of a regular concert but this was no ordinary performance.
The musicians and singers were inmates from the Singapore Prison Service’s (SPS) Performing Arts Centre (PAC), which trains inmates with talents in music and the performing arts.
Playing a set of four songs including iconic hits like rock band Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing”, the inmates impressed the crowd with their talent.
They were performing in the auditorium of Changi Prison Complex’s Cluster A to a group of about 40 volunteers from different Home Team departments.
This was part of the Home Team Volunteers Network’s (HTVN) “Walking with the Home Team” series of visits, an initiative to provide opportunities for volunteers to understand Home Team agencies beyond the department they are volunteering with.
After enjoying the inmates’ performance, Voluntary Special Constabulary (VSC) volunteer, Sergeant (V) Oscar Ng said: “I thought it would just be a regular bunch of people playing but the standard turned out to be much higher.”
|The Home Team Volunteers Network members applauding the performance put up by inmates from the Performing Arts Centre in Changi Prison. PHOTO: Haikal Jamari|
The PAC is part of the various rehabilitative programmes available to help inmates reintegrate into society upon their release.
Nurturing the musical talents of inmates, the programme involves training them in music theory, about the different genres of music and providing them with practical training.
All inmates on the programme must sit for the Grade Five music theory exam by the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music (ABRSM) at the end of their nine-month course.
PAC Director Mr Walter Lim said: “The goal of the PAC is to help inmates develop their musical competency on the performing stage, develop skill sets that are relevant to society and help steer them towards becoming responsible citizens upon their release on the stage of life.”
Home Team Volunteers Network (HTVN) Chairman Associate Professor Ho Peng Kee was the guest-of-honour for the visit.
Speaking to network members about the SPS’s motto, “Rehab, Renew, Restart”, he said it is important for the community to be part of the inmates’ reintegration process into society.
He added that HTVN itself is one example of the community doing its part.
|Rehabilitation Officer 2 (RO2) Jared Lee (Far right) bringing guest-of-honour and HTVN Chairman Assoc Prof Ho Peng Kee (Third from Right) and Home Team's volunteers on a tour of Changi Prison Cluster A’s facilities. The tour included looking at inmates’ cells. Each cell houses eight inmates at a time. PHOTO: Haikal Jamari|
During the visit, volunteers got a chance to see a typical prison cell, the inmates’ recreational area and an industrial workshop within prison. While touring the cells, they learnt that inmates are provided and allowed to keep only a few items with them.
Rehabilitation Officer 2 (RO2) Jared Lee explained that basic living items and toiletries provided in the cell are designed to prevent inmates from using them to injure themselves and others.
Volunteers were next shown the recreational area where inmates can engage in sports such as basketball and sepak takraw.
“With the provision of activities and recreational support for them, I think it gives them a sense of self worth and that is important for any person to feel,” said Sgt (V) Oscar Ng.
Ms Philomena Chong, Deputy Director of the Home Affairs Ministry’s HR Partnerships department said: “I think the design and features are all well-thought, for consideration of the inmates’ welfare as well as to help them rehabilitate.”
|HTVN Chairman Assoc Prof Ho Peng Kee (2nd from left), touring the industrial workshops in Changi Prison Cluster A. PHOTO: Haikal Jamari|
Next stop, volunteers toured the industrial workshops in Changi Prison Cluster A.
Part of the rehabilitation programme, work in these workshops helps hone positive work ethics and allows inmates to obtain vocational and employable skills.
The Singapore Corporation of Rehabilitative Enterprises (SCORE) works with SPS to manage and facilitate not only traditional industrial set-ups such as the bakery and laundry but also new economy ones like a call centre and a digital media design centre.
Volunteers then checked out a printing and packaging workshop that was set up in Cluster A since August 2006.
The visit’s Master of Ceremonies said: “SCORE’s energies are invested in enhancing the employability of the offenders and preparing them for eventual reintegration into the national workforce.”
In 2010 SCORE helped train more than 4,000 inmates for post-release employment, and helped secure jobs for more than 1,000 inmates.
For VSC law enforcer ASP (V) Mark Chow, he feels the visit benefitted him.
“So when we apprehend offenders and after they have been charged in court and sentenced to imprisonment, we now know what they are doing in prison and what they have in prison for the inmates,” he said.
With the visit, volunteers are also more aware of SPS’s efforts to reintegrate inmates back into society.
“I am glad to see that the concept of 'Rehab, Renew and Restart' actually follows through and we don’t just apprehend someone,” said Sgt (V) Oscar Ng. “There is a process to transform the inmates so they can return to society.”