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Published: 08 Jul 2011 11:10AM (Singapore)
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Shedding the Past
Inmates now have the opportunity to remove tattoos that associate them with gangs through the new Tattoo Removal Project initiative by the Singapore Prison Service. This is one of the highlights at the Singapore Prison Service booth at the Home Team Convention 2011.
By Jeraldine Phneah
A renunciation script by one of the inmates. PHOTO: Singapore Prison Service

“I’ve joined this gang because I wanted the feel of being someone and the sense of belonging… but now it seems empty, every of my laughter, smile, of this feeling that burdens me now. From now, I’ve to stand on my own two feet because I’ve restarted a new journey of my life independently,” says an inmate in his renunciation script.

This man is one of the 382 inmates who have, as of 1 May 2011, put his gang member days behind him under the Gang Renunciation Programme.

A major highlight of this programme is the Tattoo Removal Project.

The Tattoo Removal Project is sponsored by GiGATT International Marketing Private Limited.

This project helps renounced inmates remove tattoos associating them with gangs.

Started in June 2009 with the help of volunteer doctors, the project helps these inmates reintegrate into society and find employment after their release.
Inmate that went through 10 tattoo removal sessions which took over 60 weeks. PHOTO: Singapore Prison Service

As on 1 May 2011, a total of 157 inmates have had their tattoos removed.

“The Tattoo Removal Project will continue to be a useful platform for these inmates who could have limited financial means, but hope to remove tattoos associated with their gangs,” says Director of Intelligence Division at Singapore Prison Service, Mr Chiam Jia Fong.

“By helping renounced inmates with tattoo removal, it reduces the stereotype they face from the public and this can help them gain acceptance and employment within society more easily.”

The Tattoo Removal Project would be featured at the upcoming Home Team Convention on 15-17 July 2011.

There will be a video to showcase the tattoo removal process at the Singapore Prison Service booth.
Screenshot of the Tattoo Removal process for an inmate. PHOTO: Singapore Prison Service

Eligible inmates who have undergone the Gang Renunciation Programme can opt for the Tattoo Removal Project.

The Gang Renunciation Programme was started in Kaki Bukit Centre (Prison School) on 19 February 2009.

It was subsequently implemented in Clusters A and B in August 2009 and February 2010 respectively.

This programme has three phases:

Phase 1: Assessment for Suitability

Gang members who are keen to leave their gangs will inform prison staff.

Singapore Prisons Service and Singapore Police Force officers will interview and assess these inmates’ motivation and readiness to renounce their gangs.

Eligible inmates will go through the Gang Renunciation Ceremony while ineligible inmates will be monitored and reassessed to determine their suitability.

Phase 2: Gang Renunciation Ceremony

During the ceremony, inmates would renounce their gang affiliation in front of Prisons’ key appointment holders, officers from the Police’s Secret Society Branch and other inmates.
These inmates need to write a renunciation script to explain the reasons behind their renunciation and read it aloud.
Full renunciation script by one of the inmates. PHOTO: Singapore Prison Service

Phase 3:Post-renunciation (In-care)

After the ceremony, renounced inmates are closely monitored to assess their resolution to stay away from gangs and to see if other gang members intimidate them behind bars.

Post-renunciation (Aftercare Phase)

Renounced inmates are advised to stay away from gangs and seek assistance if they encounter problems after their release.

These individuals will receive benefits from Industrial & Services Co-operative Society Limited(ISCOS) to help them better reintegrate into society.

ISCOS was set up to provide former inmates employment through commercial ventures which
include industrial sub-contracting and job placement.

Besides this, ISCOS also provides social assistances to these ex-offenders.

For example, they provide newly released inmates with an initial relief package called “Gift of Hope”.

This package consists of basic necessities like NETS FlashPay CEPAS Card, food and grocery vouchers to help new members tide over the first few days upon release.

As ex-offenders rejoin the workforce, they are susceptible to various work-related stress and peer pressure.

In addition, they may face other issues transiting back to society, such as strained family ties and accommodation problems.

In July 2011, the ISCOS Support Group will be established.

This is a platform for newly released ex-offenders to receive both emotional and practical support where they can also exchange positive ideas in resolving problems and learning new techniques and information.   

“Social support given to ex-gang members would inevitably include assistance and activities for them to stay away from their old associates,” says ISCOS Executive Director (Development), Ms Phang Seok Sieng.

“ISCOS worked with multiple partners and volunteers on the Support Group initiative and will continue to spearhead new programmes to meet the reintegration and rehabilitation needs of our members.” 
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