Repeat offender dad who changed for daughter

Repeat offender dad who changed for daughter
An ex-offender who will be celebrating CNY with his family for the first time. He was released in July 2014 after serving a 5-year sentence for illegal moneylending. He will be picking his in-laws from the airport.

SINGAPORE - It is the simple things that chewed him up.

Like holding his daughter's hands. Or catching her as she fell while learning to take her first step.

He missed out on them because while she was growing up, he was behind bars.

Desmond (not his real name), 40, was an inmate at Changi Prison from 2010 to 2014 for assisting in illegal moneylending activities.

He has other convictions too and for more than 16 years he was in and out of prison.

All that changed when he saw his daughter for the first time, in 2010. She was a four-day old infant then.

He would see her again only five years later.

Desmond said: "I fell in love with my daughter as soon as I saw her. I regretted all the things I did in the past instantly. I just knew that I couldn't live my life like this any longer."

And he has been determined to turn his life around.

In prison, after seeing his daughter, the usually tough man said he wept quietly whenever he was alone on Chinese New Year.

His routine on the special day would include a simple meal, a pre-recorded programme - usually a comedy - and then returning to his cell.

The tears would start as soon as he tried to fall asleep.

This year, Desmond spent his Chinese New Year with his family and "hope, excitement and happiness".

His Vietnamese in-laws are in town to join the celebration and they will be going sightseeing. He will also be visiting family, friends and his employer.

Since his release last July, he has found accommodation, a stable job and built up his savings - all to be a better father to his girl, now five.


With the help of his MP, he applied for a two-room rental flat in Marsiling and secured a long-term visit pass for his wife so that the family could live together.

With the help of the Singapore Corporation of Rehabilitative Enterprises (Score), he has found a job in the media industry.

Drawing a salary of nearly $3,000 a month after a recent pay raise, the diploma-holder, who took a course in graphic design while in prison, hopes to buy his own BTO flat in two years' time.

Desmond recalled how he was filled with guilt that he could not support his family financially and emotionally for the five years he was in jail.

His wife Lisa (not her real name), 27, returned to Vietnam to raise their child with her family's support.

Desmond's father died many years ago and he never knew his mother.

He was previously jailed twice for criminal breach of trust and spent more than 11 years in prison for that.

Desmond, who had never held a real job before the one he has now, said he always tried to be a businessman.

Throughout the interview, he was candid about his "stupidity" and said he was always looking for "easy money".

He recalled how he got into the moneylending business: "My money quickly ran dry after I was released from prison and had no job. Then, a call came asking if I needed money."

Lisa, a housewife, was also unaware of his past until he was caught six years ago.

Calling her a "very brave woman" for standing by him, he said she was another reason he was determined to never go back to his old ways.

He said: "She told me that if I ever go to prison again, she'll leave me. I'll never see her and our daughter again."

Lisa has noticed the change in her husband.

They met in 2007 when she was studying in Singapore.

She said in Mandarin: "He used to be very playful and always wanted to go out drinking with his friends. But he's a lot more responsible now and plans for our future."

Desmond stresses the importance of seeking the help available from various organisations, such as the Singapore After-Care Association. (See report at right, above.)

And he is now contributing to the inmate community by sharing his experiences with former offenders.

He volunteers with the Industrial & Services Co-operative Society, which provides support to ex-offenders and their families.

He said: "I'm not doing this to make myself look good. To me, it's about accountability.

"I want to be constantly reminded of my past so that I will never go back to my old ways."

I fell in love with my daughter as soon as I saw her. I regretted all the things I did in the past instantly.

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