Paroled to Jail

Crime is the indiscretions of members of a society upon itself.

It is in the examination of that statement which helps any society become safer and welcoming to all its people. As we advance as a people the potential to harm each other increases.

And that is breaking from habit I am actually going to applaud Hamid Albar for launching the new Parole System in the country. Though it is very belated.

Malaysia has always had a stand-offish attitude to those convicted of crimes. Which explains the high levels of recidivism here. Prisons have been only places of punishment, not a means to rehabilitate people and let them have the full measure of life upon release or parole.

Jobs before hugs

The primary point of reform has to be in jobs, the securing of them. Most ex-cons end up doing odd jobs and most often bullied by their employers because jobs are very harder to come by. There are jobs that ex-convicts should be cleared from, but there are many jobs they have every right to pursue and succeed in.

Paedophiles for instance can be kept from working on school grounds and those that will give them access and authority over children, but they are most welcome to work in an accounting firm.

We have to look at the reasons behind their crimes. Those in for crimes of passion, youthful indulgences and commercial crimes are hardly the violent sorts in most situation. However if we fail to provide space for them to realise their potential than they will relent to what worked in prison – force and daring.

Of those with psychological afflictions, like paedophilia or kleptomania – instituting process and steps to disallow them from recurring to their affliction is most important. Second, tools for them to examine their behaviour without the stress of pre-judgement. A seamless passage to life’s normalities is the final requirement.

Preparation for the world

Prison can rip to shreds a persons sense of dignity and worth. And time spent in prison is either one of adjusting and accepting the prison sub-culture as a permanent affectation or reflecting and preparing for a world beyond the prison walls.

Contact with the world you seek re-join is paramount.

Currently we don’t have active programmes where prisoners interact with the public. It would be brilliant if Rakan Muda incorporated this as one of its programmes – prison visitation. It is also a very good way of getting the message to wayward children.

We need to engage our prisoners. Sports programmes involving non-prisoners, and the parity they will obviously feel on a field of play is both uplifting and life affirming. A sense of normalcy and non-differentiation is precious to those excluded from society life.

The cynic in me

The more suspicious part of me tells me the new Parole System is going to be at best window dressing, relying on NGOs to bolster it. The federal system is built on patronage, not engagement. Someone in Putrajaya would think building a convict skills development centre for 16 million would solve the problem, rather than launching a livelihood project for ex-convicts in collaboration with those who are not, and mediating the process. As it happens.

Maybe they will prove me wrong. But perhaps this is the time for me to ask the reader if they have done something to get any ex-con back on her or his feet.

Remember, these former criminals have committed indiscretions at your expense, and if you are not going to take the effort to give them reasons to rationalise their indiscretions, there is nothing that will stop them from returning to type.

There is a reason why some societies have less crime than others. But the solution is rarely in ordering harsher punishments, nil rehabilitation and chances to live.

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