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Be A Guardian: Empowering Inmates on Their Rehabilitation Journey

Passion, dedication and knowledge to support rehabilitation – how psychologists support the rehabilitation of offenders.
Be A Guardian spotlights exciting career, scholarship and sponsorship opportunities in the Home Team.

Arvina Manoo has been a Psychologist with the Singapore Prison Service (SPS) since November 2012. Besides conducting risk assessments and psychological interventions for male and female offenders, her role includes developing and implementing psychology-based correctional programmes. 

Having led the first-ever gender specific correctional programme for female drug offenders in Singapore, Arvina is pushing herself further – in September 2018, she’ll be pursuing a Masters in Clinical Forensic Psychology at King’s College London, under the Ministry of Home Affairs Postgraduate Sponsorship programme.

PHOTO: Muhamad Khair
Why did you choose Psychology as a profession?
I’ve always been very fascinated by how humans behave; why we do certain things and make certain decisions, and that’s why I took up a degree in Psychology. During my undergraduate days, I developed an interest in learning about why people offend and how I can help rehabilitate them.

I’ve been privileged to be involved in a wide spectrum of work as a psychologist. Apart from counselling offenders, it’s also about conducting research, developing initiatives and training others to advance correctional work. That’s why I chose the SPS as the organisation with which to pursue my career. 

Arvina speaking to a male inmate. PHOTO: Muhamad Khair
What has been the highlight of your career so far?
Each programme that I’ve developed has been truly significant and meaningful, but developing the first gender-responsive rehabilitation programme for female drug offenders was a highlight for me. Looking at what was available on the subject in the international literature, my Division conducted research on the local female offender population and found that there was still much we could do in terms of advancing correctional work for them. 

What’s important for these women is that we affirm and empathise with them. A lot of them have been through painful experiences and it’s important for us to empower them to take charge of their own change. Many also struggle to regulate their emotions, and may turn to drugs. Unfortunately, a number of them are also stuck in a cycle of dysfunctional relationships, or have partners who are incarcerated. So we explore how they can form healthy relationships and break free from the dysfunctional cycle. 

An inspiring quote within the one of the SPS’ Drug Rehabilitation Centres. PHOTO: Muhamad Khair
It was rewarding to see the programme come to life when I conducted it for the female offenders. The journey I shared with them, which had its uplifting and difficult moments, was one of the most notable in my career – it reminded me of the very reason I joined the SPS.

Why did you choose to pursue a Masters in Clinical Forensic Psychology?
What I really like about this programme is that it will allow me to apply clinical skills within a forensic setting. As part of my studies, I’ll get to complete a work placement programme at a medium- to high-security unit in a hospital setting and manage clients who present with mental health issues. 

Part of Arvina’s job is also to train staff such as correctional officers, counsellors and external vendors. PHOTO: Muhamad Khair
I’m looking forward to learning from psychologists and subject matter experts in the United Kingdom, looking at what they do, as well as what aspects of their approaches I can bring back home. It’s about continuing to adhere to international best practices while improving the design and implementation of our evidence-informed correctional programmes, so that we can enhance rehabilitation approaches for our clients. 

It’s been some time since you’ve been in school. How do you feel about hitting the books again?
I do have fears when I think about writing my dissertation. But then my colleagues have been telling me, “Arvina, you’ve written 300 pages of a programme manual; what do you have to be worried about?” 

It’s definitely going to be an enriching experience and I can’t wait to get started. 

Be A Guardian
Turning the spotlight on exciting career, scholarship and sponsorship opportunities in the Home Team: 
Be A Guardian: Serving with Heart (SPF)
Be A Guardian: A Calling to Serve (SPS) 
Be A Guardian: In the Heart of the Action (SCDF)
Be A Guardian: An Eye for Investigations (CNB)
Be A Guardian: One Job, Many Facets (CNB)
Be A Guardian: Making an Impact Where It Counts (SPF)
Be A Guardian: Pushing Herself to Her Limit (SPF)
Be A Guardian: Having a Heart for Those in Need (SCDF)
Be A Guardian: Guiding Inmates onto the Right Path (SPS)
Be A Guardian: Ever Vigilant (ICA)
Be A Guardian: Turning Helplessness to Hope (SPF)
Be A Guardian: Engineering a Fresh Start (MHA)
Be A Guardian: One with the Community (SPF)
Be A Guardian: Empowering Inmates on Their Rehabilitation Journey (SPS)

A Career in the Home Team
If you’re keen to learn more about becoming a Home Team Guardian, visit the MHA website.

Written by

Muhamad Khair


31 August 2018

Prisons Management and Rehabilitation
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