What the City Harvest Church leaders can expect in Changi prison

What the City Harvest Church leaders can expect in Changi prison
Kong Hee (L) and Sharon Tan are among the five CHC leaders who have started to serve their prison sentences.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

The five City Harvest Church (CHC) leaders, who began serving their jail sentences at Changi Prison yesterday, will step into a place with which their church has had dealings for many years.

CHC has been providing chapel services and support group sessions at Changi prison since 2001. The Straits Times understands, however, that the convicted leaders will probably not have access to their own church's services to ensure there is no "conflict of interest".

If they want, however, CHC leader Kong Hee and the others will be able to attend Christian counselling services offered by other churches.

Kong and the other church leaders - John Lam, Tan Yee Peng and Sharon Tan and Serina Wee - are serving prison terms ranging from 7 months to 42 months.

After paperwork and a medical examination for the three men in the Changi Prison Complex, prison officials will decide whether to house them in maximum security or medium security facilities.

Many high-profile prisoners end up in maximum security facilities, where they have fewer dealings with other prisoners.

The women will undergo a similar process at the Changi Women's Prison and exchange their civilian clothes for standard prison T-shirts and shorts.

The inmates' belongings have to be surrendered to prison staff and can be redeemed on release or by their family members.

No long hair is allowed for male or female prisoners, unless the inmate is a Sikh. The hair must be above the ears. As they turned themselves in yesterday, both women had already cut their hair short.

Days in prison normally revolve around various activities like training, counselling and work for which the inmates receive allowances. The jobs they can do could involve laundry, cooking and baking, call centres, or business jobs outsourced to prisons. But not all inmates are eligible or deployed for work.

The prison, on its own, issues standard gear to inmates such as blanket, a mug and a toothbrush each. They also have access to newspapers and can watch television during prescribed hours. There is, however, no Internet access.

Inmates are served three meals a day, which are simple but nutritious affairs - usually rice with fish or meat and vegetables. The cutlery is usually made of plastic, for security reasons. After dinner, inmates are usually locked into their cells - which normally house three or four persons - unless they have to attend night classes or are on the late shift at a call centre.

They can also exercise and work out regularly.

Inmates are also allowed visits from family members and other approved visitors. They can either choose to have two televisits a month, each lasting 30 minutes or they can opt for one televisit and one face-to-face visit. The face-to-face visit can last up to 20 minutes and can include up to three visitors. Inmates are also allowed to receive approved reading materials of up to three items per visit.

With good conduct, Kong Hee like the others, could earn a one-third remission, on his jail sentence. This could see his prison term cut to 28 months. He may even qualify for home detention for the tail end of his jail term, and effectively serve two years in jail.



City Harvest case: Kong Hee and 4 leaders surrender at State Courts to start jail terms

This article was first published on April 21, 2017.
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