Every year, more than 9,000 ex-offenders complete their imprisonment and are released from the various prisons and drug rehabilitation centres (DRCs). It is disheartening that ex-offenders have to live with the stigma of having served time behind bars when they are released from prison, one that can often be more punishing than the prison sentence itself. Many ex-offenders, once released, find themselves literally stepping into a second prison. This time it would be a prison with invisible bars, of suspicion, mistrust and discrimination.
The best rehabilitation regime during incarceration is of no use if ex-offenders find themselves rejected at every turn when they are released into the larger community. To counter this second prison, the Yellow Ribbon Project was started in 2004 as a community initiative in Singapore that create awareness of the need to give second chances to ex-offenders, generate acceptance of ex-offenders and their families in the community, and inspire community action to support the rehabilitation and reintegration of ex-offenders into society.
The Yellow Ribbon Prison Run is one of the events that have resulted in more Singaporeans demonstrating their support for the cause. Among the runners this year were 10 visually-challenged and 10 intellectually-challenged representatives of the Runninghour, a social interest group that fosters better integration between the less-privileged and other fitness enthusiasts. The 20 runners, along with their trainers, took part in the 10km Competitive Run.
The event, themed The Road to Acceptance, took participants through either a scenic 10km Competitive Run or a 6km Fun Run before celebrating their support for the cause with a carnival held within the Changi Prison Complex.
Exhibits and performances to showcase the journey of inmates and ex-offenders in earning the acceptance of fellow Singaporeans were presented at the carnival. More than 1,200 participants formed Singapore’s first-ever giant yellow ribbon today to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Yellow Ribbon Project.
The formation was part of the fifth Yellow Ribbon Prison run, which attracted about 10,000 runners and was flagged off by Mr Teo Chee Hean, Deputy Prime Minister, Coordinating Minister for National Security and Minister for Home Affairs.
While I applaud the action of Yellow Ribbon Project, I also hope that Singapore government agencies & related organisations can take the lead in hiring back ex-offenders within the ranks of civil servants. With them taking the lead, I believe the private sectors will gradually follow suit and offer a fresh new start for our ex-offenders.
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