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Singapore

Bursary will pay ‘up to 100% of course fees’ for inmates pursuing tertiary education: Josephine Teo

SINGAPORE: Set on turning over a new leaf and wanting to show his children the importance of education, an inmate graduated from his diploma with a perfect 4.0 Grade Point Average while serving time in prison.

Haizat (not his real name), 46, will start a degree course in business management and logistics with the Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS) this month, with his course fees subsidised by a bursary. 

He is one of the recipients of the bursary set up by the Yellow Ribbon Fund and the Singapore Federation of Chinese Clan Associations. The bursary, which was launched in February, subsidises course fees for inmates pursuing SUSS self-study degree programmes in prison school, and is open to inmates of all races.

Speaking in a video at the launch of the three-day Community Action for the Rehabilitation of Ex-Offenders (CARE) Network Summit 2021 on Tuesday (Jul 13), Second Minister for Home Affairs Josephine Teo said the bursary will pay “up to 100 per cent of course fees” for inmates pursuing tertiary education.

She also shared Haizat’s story.

“After failing his GCE O-Levels, Haizat began taking drugs. In 2016, he was sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment,” she said. “During this time, Haizat’s children were in primary school, and he committed to show his children the importance of education, even while he himself was in prison.

“With this newfound purpose, Haizat retook his O-Levels and went on to earn a diploma from Ngee Ann Polytechnic, where he graduated with a perfect 4.0 Grade Point Average.”

Haizat said: “It (the bursary) has helped me in a lot of ways … I don’t have to depend on my family, I don’t have to put additional financial strain on my family because of my degree course.”

READ: Recidivism rate at all-time low; more inmates serving part of jail term in community: Prison Service

Mrs Teo noted that the bursary has supported 11 inmates as of April.

“These partnerships can have a deep and profound impact on the lives of offenders and their families,” said Mrs Teo, who is also the Minister for Communications and Information.

Existing inmates who have applied for the bursary after they commenced their degree programmes will be given support for the remaining period of their studies with SUSS, from "incare phase which could extend into the community", a spokesperson from the CARE Network said in response to CNA's queries.

In an interview with media ahead of Tuesday’s launch, Mr Tan Aik Hock, president of the Singapore Federation of Chinese Clan Associations said that the federation wanted to “give a chance to the ex-offenders”.

“This would help them ... when they are coming back to join the society, they will have a better capability, they will have a better chance to ‘gel’ into the society again,” he said.

To be eligible for the bursary, inmates will have to follow SUSS’ requirements, their household income must be no more than S$1,500 and they must be Singaporean or a permanent resident.

PROSOCIAL PILOT PROGRAMME

To strengthen support for ex-offenders while they reintegrate into society, the CARE Network has enhanced its prosocial support channels, it said on Tuesday.

“Prosocial support is a vital element in desistance, where ex-offenders stay crime-free and stop their cycle of re-offending by focusing on positive relationships to sustain their motivation to change.

“When successfully reintegrated, these ex-offenders become ‘desistors’ - positive agents for change, by paying it forward and helping other ex-offenders stay crime-free,” said the CARE Network in a news release.

READ: Inmate stressed by long sentence, family's disappointment finds comfort in supportive prison officer

A key initiative developed to promote desistance is a prosocial pilot programme led by the Singapore Anti-Narcotics Association and the Industrial and Services Co-Operative Society. 

Both organisations will serve as “key community touchpoints” to help desistors to support other ex-offenders through organising community-led initiatives and extending outreach to ex-offenders in need.

The pilot programme was introduced in January.

“Aimed to identify, equip and harness prosocial groups to support the reintegration of people-in-recovery, this pilot programme creates an ecosystem of prosocial support for ex-offenders as they return to the community,” said the CARE Network.

TRAINING FOR AFTERCARE PROFESSIONALS

In May, the Singapore Prison Service and the Singapore After-Care Association developed the first aftercare-specific training course.

The Aftercare Competency Framework was launched in April last year and was developed to “outline the key competencies and knowledge required in the aftercare sector”, said Mrs Teo.

Fifty-one professionals took part in the inaugural Corrections and Aftercare Landscape course. In addition, the CARE Network is developing an online repository of research and aftercare resources by the end of the year to “support knowledge management and retention in this field”.

“The CARE Network Summit … is an event the aftercare community looks forward to every year in supporting the reintegration of ex-offenders,” said Mr Chng Hwee Hong, chairman of Yellow Ribbon Singapore and co-chairperson of the CARE Network.

“Just as the saying goes, ‘it takes a village to raise a child’. We can also build a conducive and supportive environment which encourages ex-offenders to take ownership of their reintegration and inspire others along the way, through collaborations with existing and new partners in Government, corporate supports and the large community.”

Source: CNA/cc

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