The community's role in helping prisoners turn over a new leaf was highlighted yesterday at an event to recognise young inmates who have taken the chance to improve themselves and learn to be responsible.
Speaking at the National Youth Achievement Award (NYAA) presentation ceremony held in Tanah Merah Prison, Senior Minister of State for Law and Education Indranee Rajah said community and private-sector partners are "essential in supporting the rehabilitation and reintegration of offenders".
She highlighted how Lasalle College of the Arts came on board to help inmates pick up video-editing skills, while Lynn Tuition Centre started teaching women prisoners basic percussion and drums.
"In the NYAA programme, participants are given a chance to channel their energies and resourcefulness positively," said Ms Indranee.
NYAA awards were handed out to 96 inmates aged between 18 and 25 from Changi Prison, Changi Women's Prison and Tanah Merah Prison yesterday. One received gold - the first time an inmate got the highest award since 2009.
The inmate, who cannot be named because of prison policy, was jailed in 2010 for being involved in gangs after dropping out of school. But while in jail, he returned to his studies, getting three distinctions and two Bs for the O levels. He plans to enrol in Lasalle when he is released.
As part of the NYAA programme, he created a sculpture using recycled material and donated it to the CARElderly Seniors Activity Centre. The work of art was displayed at an exhibition during the centre's anniversary last October.
Since the Singapore Prison Service adopted the NYAA programme in 2000, nearly 1,500 young inmates have taken part.
Assistant Superintendent Nurazura Mohamed Jani, who is in charge of the programme for inmates, said the community can play a part, by volunteering their time and expertise. "Although the onus to change for the better is ultimately on the offenders, concerted effort and support from the community will increase their chances of successful reintegration into society," she said.
The Singapore Adventurers' Club, which has been involved in the NYAA programme in the prisons for more than 10 years, also conducted activities that taught outdoor survival and navigation skills, among others.
Its president, Ms Audrey Fong, said: "Whenever I recruit new volunteers, I stress that we have to remove the stigma that the inmates are 'unteachable'.
"It's very important for the community to offer them a chance, we want to inject positive feelings into the inmates."
The NYAA programme was set up in 1992 to mould 14- to 25-year-olds into responsible and self-reliant adults. Participants pursue a bronze, silver or gold award through activities like sports, community service and learning new skills.
About 15,000 young people receive the awards each year.
This article was first published on April 24, 2015.
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