Left: Hong Li Ying, Senior Reintegration Officer (Home Detention/ Residential Scheme) oversees the rehabilitation and reintegration of those assigned to her. She has a degree in Criminology and Security from SIT/ University of Liverpool under the MHA Degree Scholarship.
Right: Soh Chi Yiong is a Housing Unit Officer in Cluster B, B3 with a degree in Criminology and Security from SIT/University of Liverpool. He is a HALO awardee 2016, and currently leads a team of Personal Supervisors guiding over 300 inmates in their Housing Unit towards a fresh start in society.
Keeping their motto of "Rehab, Renew, Restart" in their hearts, Singapore Prison Service's (SPS) Captains of Lives have transformed Singapore's prisons into places of learning and change where offenders can grasp a second chance.
According to Soh Chi Yiong, Housing Unit Officer in Cluster B, B3 and Hong Li Ying, Senior Reintegration Officer (Home Detention/ Residential Scheme) with Community Corrections Command, the transformation is only set to continue.
Their journeys showed us a dynamic, exciting place to make your career at an organisation that fully supports its officers, where you can make a real difference and change lives for the better. .
Chance Encounters, Purposeful Work
Surprisingly, neither Chi Yiong nor Li Ying started out intending to join SPS. When asked where it all began, Chi Yiong casts his mind back to the time when he graduated with Diploma in Computer Information Systems from Singapore Polytechnic, he was inspired by the "Captains of Lives" advertisements on television.
"I was inspired by the dignity and purpose of the job of a prison officer," he recalled. "It deeply resonates with my personal belief that everyone deserves a second chance in life."
"Furthermore, the vocation of a prison officer has always been shrouded in mystery and I was intrigued about life behind the high walls of prison."
It was the same for Li Ying. Curious about exactly what prison officers do, she attended a SPS career talk in polytechnic.
It was a life-changing moment. "After the talk, I left the auditorium feeling really inspired and enthused by how the work of a Prison Officer could create ripple effects of hope and change to not just the offenders, but their family, loved ones and the wider society," she described.
"I decided to take a leap of faith to apply for Home Team Diploma Sponsorship and eventually sign on with SPS as a Prison Officer."
Behind the Wall
So what is the work of a Captain of Lives? In Li Ying's case, she oversees the rehabilitation and reintegration of those assigned to her.
For SPS, the focus is on supporting inmates to take charge of their own rehabilitation. This involves supporting their rehabilitation, ensuring they comply with their programme supervision conditions, collaborating with community partners and stakeholders to secure their futures, and having officers "walk the talk" as positive role models.
Speaking of role models, Chi Yiong is another exemplary officer who inspires those under his supervision. In his case, he leads a team of Personal Supervisors guiding over 300 inmates in their Housing Unit towards a fresh start in society.
However, their work does not end upon an inmate's release. Captains of Lives make a point to always be there for their charges, even after they have left the prison. "I also assist them in their aftercare needs such as employment, accommodation, and any other matters," said Chi Yiong.
In summary, a Captain of Lives is a leader, mentor and role model to those who have strayed, steering them back onto the right path and sending them back into society with a new pro-social identity.
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Reaping the Rewards
When it comes to the perks of their profession, both Chi Yiong and Li Ying emphasised that the work is its own reward.
"My greatest career achievement thus far is knowing that I have made a difference, albeit a small difference to the lives of the people around me," said Li Ying.
Chi Yiong elaborated further that their work has a "ripple effect" that builds a more positive and open-hearted society. "Our actions towards the inmates can positively impact the inmates themselves and their loved ones."
However, SPS work does not only pay in job satisfaction. Under the MHA Degree Scholarship and Home Affairs Learning & Growth Opportunities (HALO) Programme respectively, Li Ying and Chi Yiong were able to undertake full-time degrees in Criminology and Security at SIT/University of Liverpool, which sponsored their studies and even an Overseas Immersion Program where they travelled to UK.
Most importantly, SPS did not call its officers back during their studies. Instead, the organisation offered them with full (100%) degree sponsorship as well as full pay (which includes mid-year and year-end bonuses as well as merit increment) during their studies.
Indeed, SPS has much to offer in terms of support and career progression. Chi Yiong is a living example of this, having had the opportunity to work in a maximum-security institution dealing with inmates serving life sentences, staff units which liaised with external vendors to facilitate family programmes, as well as attend regular courses to refresh his basic competencies and keep him up-to-date on developments in the field.
"A career which entrusts you with the responsibility to steer individuals back onto the right path and make a genuine difference in their lives – that is SPS."
A Second Life
These two officers took a chance on SPS and have enjoyed great gains with the organisation. From meaningful work to varied development opportunities, SPS has it all.
As Li Ying concluded: "A Captain of Lives can be anyone who has a passion or a desire to be a positive and inspirational anchor of hope towards the people around them."
Those who are committed to the cause can join SPS and make a difference. Will that be you?