Singapore: Inmates at Tanah Merah Prison meet family members at Children's Day event

Prison inmates at Tanah Merah Prison in Singapore bond with their family members at Children's Day event on October 7.

Prison inmates meet family
A displaced Iraqi father, who fled the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul, is hugged by his displaced daughter as they meet for the first time since they fled Mosul, upon the father's arrival at Khazer camp, Iraq November 26, 2016. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY Reuters

Douglas (name changed), a 55-year old prison inmate in Singapore's Tanah Merah Prison, will surely have something to hold onto the rest of his life.

He was sentenced to 12 years in jail for criminal breach of trust six years ago. Douglas's wife stood by him throughout the ups and downs and never hinders to take their 11-year old daughter to meet her father in prison every month.

On October 7, Douglas and 23 other prison inmates celebrated Children's Day with their little ones. The children ranged from pre-schoolers to teenagers. Unfortunately, most of the families have terminated all forms of contact with the hapless ones in prison.

Douglas, however, considers himself to be extremely lucky.

"I also have this fear of being abandoned, like nobody is there for me when I'm released," he told Straits Times.

The prison inmates were allowed an open visit at the Children's Day event which was organised at the Tanah Merah Prison. The inmates are usually separated from their loved ones by a glass panel during a visit. However, they were overwhelmed to have hugged their near ones and thanked the event organisers for taking this initiative.

Instead of their prison attire of white T-shirts printed with the inmate numbers and blue shorts, the inmates were provided with blue polo T-shirts and navy blue track pants.

The event primarily was a special care programme that focussed on helping the inmates and their family members to communicate with one another irrespective of any differences and express their love towards them without any hindrance.

Such an initiative is important as leading life normally, for prison inmates are difficult. Apart from the social stigma, having to stay away from their family in itself is an emotional burden. Often bonds become alienated between the inmates and their family members. The children may feel estranged towards their fathers or might be agitated and annoyed. Things turn topsy-turvy when the sole breadwinner of the family is jailed.This workshop, therefore, is necessary for all the prison inmates around the world, asserted Adelene Chan, spokesman for Focus on the Family Singapore, which started the programme last year.

"Humans thrive when we know we are loved," continued Chan "When inmates connect and are reconciled with their families, there is a lower chance of them reoffending."

A spokesman for the Singapore Prison Service said that family support helps prison inmates deal with the emotional stress and restricts them from reoffending.

Social service agencies such as Focus on the Family runs workshops to strengthen the bond between inmates and their family. A survey conducted in December 2016 shows 1,100 male and female inmates, along with children under the age of 16, constituting 9 percent of the prison population.

The Sunday Times was allowed to be a part of the Children's Day celebration on October 7. The inmates were beyond happy to hug their family members and hold their children in their arms. Buffet lunch and games were also organised. Parting from one another at the end of the event was the toughest for all.

Douglas stated that the opportunity to hug his daughter brought him immense joy.

"I miss dad so much. But I don't tell my friends that my dad is in jail or they will be shocked. When I miss him, I hug my (toy) dog" Douglas's 11-year old daughter said.