Three grassroots groups from Tampines, Taman Jurong and Admiralty have joined the Singapore Prison Service (SPS) Befriending Programme. This has expanded the pool of volunteers to 230, about six times more than the 40 volunteers it started out with when the programme began in 2010.
Senior Minister of State for Home Affairs and Foreign Affairs Masagos Zulkifli, who was speaking at the Befrienders’ Dialogue and Appreciation Luncheon on Saturday (Oct 18), said the SPS Befriending Programme has given support to more than 400 offenders.
The offenders are mentored by Befrienders while they are still serving time. After release from prison, the relationship can continue through visits and letter correspondences, with the Befrienders providing emotional support and advice for challenges ranging from housing to financial stability, over a span of up to 16 months.
Befriender Sarisah Jaffar said: “Building trust takes time and this can be achieved by genuinely listening to their concerns. Some of them do not have families who believe that they can change, so they look to us for that. At the end of the day, offenders are responsible for their own lives but they just need that occasional nudge from us to ensure that they stay on the right track”.
“More divisions have indicated their interest and will be sending their volunteers for training in the next couple of months. With more divisions on board, we are moving in the right direction in showing community acceptance through welcoming offenders back into the community, not as ex-offenders but as fellow citizens,” said Mr Masagos.
Senior Assistant Director of SPS’ Community and Family Engagement Branch Umardani Umle said the work of these volunteers was deeply appreciated, and encouraged more like-minded individuals and groups to join the programme. Those who want more information can contact firstname.lastname@example.org.