months, we have seen the introduction of the new Home Team logo and
Home Team launching Workshop. Our officers are also currently involved
with the on-going MHA Roadshows. They all boil down to a singular
purpose. The coming together of all MHA departments to steer towards
one direction. Police Life Monthly marks this with a series titled
"Home Front" which will highlight the work of the various
Home Team Departments. To launch the series, writer Nisar Keshvani
goes behind bars to bring you an inside story.
Click here to read accompanying story: "A
quick guide to Changi Prison"
|As a young boy I was fascinated by our
local prison. I zoomed past it almost every week because my sister
stayed close by, and I always wished I could see it up close.
In a lame effort to understand and perhaps imagine a life behind
bars, I read books about risons overseas and watched movies. When
the opportunity to visit Changi Prison presented itself, it was
like a dream come true. However reality always seems to hit you
when you least expect it.
|Changi Prison was built to accommodate 1561 inmates.
Excluding the staff quarters, it covered 13 acres. The prison is walled
in by a 3,000-foot long, 24-foot high concrete wall. Walking through
the narrow alleys cleverly architectured around the prison with ASP
S Mahalingam and Rehabilitation Officer 1 (RO1) Jahir Anwar, one gets
a feel of the prison’s high security.
Each section is fitted with high security doors and they can easily
be cordoned off if necessary. The corridors are monitored all the
time, giving prisoners little chance of even planning an escape.
While walking, I expected to see prisoners running around and hear
their tortured screams just like on the silver screen. And wardens
trying to control them. But I was surprised at the serenity and
The inmates were well-disciplined, calm and organised. When I asked
RO1 Jahir, he said with a laugh, “That is all only in films,
exaggerated for impact, we believe the inmates are here as punishment
and not for punishment. We have to help them as best as we can.”
We had a peek of a typical cell. Each fitted with the bare necessities,
a toilet with reading materials, toothbrush, a mug, a blanket and
a mat. Most cells could accommodate two or three persons.
Rehabilitation and physical recreation
We discovered that a convicts day is well planned from sunrise to
sunset. There roll call early in the morning ensure all prisoners
are safe. Hard-core criminals young and first-time offenders segregated
for obvious reasons. ASP Mahalingam then briefed us on Changi Prison
rehabilitation programme. Physical recreation high list of priorities.
activities keep inmates healthy fitwhile recreational games help
relieve pressures incarceration promote interaction between inmates.
Inter-block organised time encourage sportsmanship.
"Wardens not only inculcate and maintain
discipline but double up as counsellors and try to help inmates where
possible. We must understand they are within confined surroundings
and we are their link to their families."
"Instead of medals or trophies,
the men prefer snacks or food items such as chocolates," said
There is ample opportunity for inmates to get adjusted to working
life. Changi Prison boasts the largest laundry in Southeast Asia
and is responsible for cleaning bedsheets for the SAF and most local
hospitals. Various work areas are set up to inculcate strong work
ethics and discipline in the offender. His ability to hold on to
a job will serve as a stable foundation for the reintegration of
the offender into society.
Through SCORE’s work programme; inmates are involved in the
following industries: tailoring, silkscreen printing, bookbinding,
laundering, copper tooling, carpentry and breadmaking. While touring
the laundry, we discovered the close but firm relationship of inmates
with their warders when one of them quietly approached ASP Mahalingam
for a quiet conversation.
"Wardens not only inculcate and maintain discipline
but double up as counsellors and try to help inmates where possible.
We must understand they are within confined surroundings and we
are their link to their families," he adds. EDUCATION Academic
or vocational education is available to all offenders to upgrade
their educational level and skills. Academic classes are conducted
by teachers seconded from the Ministry of Education as well as part-time
BEST courses, GCE ‘O’ and ‘A’ level classes
enable inmates to acquire degrees and diplomas during their stint
in prison. "One inmate is even pursuing a degree. We always
support and encourage them to continue studying," said ASP
Mahalingam. Inmates’ earnings from their various job vocations
are automatically channelled to their POSBank accounts. They can
use this money to support their families or pay for examination
Religious and Social Counselling
Religion can help inmates change their errant ways by giving them
a sense of direction and meaning to life. Inmates are encouraged
to pursue their religious beliefs " religious services are
held regularly and counselling is provided by various religious
Many prisoners have personal, social or family problems, if not
addressed, could retard the rehabilitation process. Social counselling
is provided by trained officers and individual volunteer counsellors.
Families can visit their relatives in prison. Literature and certain
food items are allowed but they have to be screened before being
given the inmates. Occasionally inmates ask speak non-relatives
with whom special attachments. one such instancean inmate even proposed
his long-time girlfriend.
"There must be room for compassion in such cases," ASP
Mahalingam observes. Our last stop was the Prison Chapel, built
during the 2nd World War. Brushing through the short notes left
there by former prisoners of war, one can only imagine the memories
Changi Prison holds for the many that have passed through its huge
The husband is inside the iron bars,
the wife is outside the iron bars, looking in,
So near they are only separated by inches,
And yet so distant, like sky and depths of the sea.
What no words utter, their desperate eyes relate,
Before every word their eyes brim with tears.
Who could stand here and watch their meeting unmoved?
here to read accompanying story: "A quick
guide to Changi Prison"