“Captains of lives”, “We are trained to look for the sparkles, not just the flaws”, “Who says ex-convicts can’t serve society with conviction.”
So croons the website of the Singapore Prison Service. With such enlightened wit, one would expect our prisons to be institutions beyond reproach. And yet, the adage that what you see is not what you get remains frustratingly true.
During Mr Jufri Salim’s recent incarceration at the Queenstown Remand Prison, he witnessed an officer kicking two inmates just because they were slow to respond when their prison numbers were called. One tripped and almost fell.
“Can’t you hear me calling you?” he cursed at them in Malay.
The officer, a Staff Sergeant, was also heard scolding another remandee: “Eh stupid, you don’t know how to get in line?”
Captains of lives? Not with the way these prisoners are treated.
This isn’t to say that all prison officers behave in such a degenerate manner. There are officers who act professionally and with decorum.
But this should not excuse the bad apples that treat prisoners in ways that degrade and brutalise. And this was an incident where Mr Jufri chanced upon. What of the instances that are not witnessed?
“I was very disturbed when I saw this happening,” Mr Jufri told the SDP, “Although these people may have committed offences, they are still human and should be treated as one.”
The prison sevice must look into this matter and ensure that its officers are adequately trained and that inmates are not abused, physically or psychologically.
More than that, the public must be assured that the Service practices the professionalism it preaches. Mechanisms must be put in place to allow the public to monitor the state of the prison system especially where the treatment of prisoners is concerned.