A curiosity about service and an innate desire to make a difference in the lives of others – these were the impulses that guided Chief Warder 2 Sadhana Rai to the Singapore Prison Service
(SPS) 11 years ago. And the desire remains strong to this day for the 32-year-old Correctional Rehabilitation Specialist.
Tell us about your work.
Chief Warder 2 Sadhana Rai. PHOTO: Tan Ming Hui
As part of my rehabilitative and counselling work with ex-offenders and supervisees, I conduct interviews, assessments and interventions using evidence-based practices. I also work closely with Reintegration Officers and our community partners to help ex-offenders reintegrate into society.
I think the most important thing about this job is to have integrity, tenacity and empathy. If you don’t have empathy, it’s very difficult to relate to and work with an offender.
Sometimes the ex-offenders share that because they have prison records, they are treated differently by others. This affects their self-esteem and self-confidence. You have to be able to see the potential in others, despite all the challenges; to see the “sparkle in everyone.”
Share a significant moment in your work as a Correctional Rehabilitation Specialist.
There have been many moments when I felt very proud to be an SPS officer who works with ex-offenders. For example, I once counselled a man who’d been in and out of prison over 15 times. He’d never had sustained employment for more than six months, and his relapses happened quickly.
When I first started working with him, he was very resistant to counselling and rehabilitation. But as I engaged him, together with his family and his then four-year-old son, I started to see a change in him. I never gave up on him, and said, “Look, there are so many people who still believe in you.”
Finally, at the end of our programme together, he thanked me and said, “I never believed that something like this would help me.”
But it did, and not only has he been gainfully employed for the past six months, he’s getting married, and will be starting his own family.
What are some of the difficulties you face in your work?
We do come across ex-offenders who’re resistant to change and try to go back to their old ways of doing things. But at the end of the day, we should never give up. That’s how we overcome challenges – not to give up so easily, and always to see “the sparkle in everyone.”
There are also times when we have to work late because we usually meet ex-offenders and supervisees after their working hours. My husband has always been my pillar of support; he’s very understanding and has supported me even as I’m studying for my Masters in Counselling.
You mentioned the challenges that ex-offenders face in reintegrating back into the community. How can we contribute to their rehabilitation?
Team effort: Chief Warder 2 Sadhana Rai speaking to her supervisor Ms Nina Tan. PHOTO: Tan Ming Hui
At the end of the day, ex-offenders are individuals who’ve made mistakes in life, but that doesn’t mean that we should stigmatise them and cast them aside. In the past, people often viewed Prison officers as custodians who worked behind locked gates and high walls with unpredictable or dangerous individuals.
But I think it’s not representative of what I do – I work with people. We have to be more accepting of ex-offenders and give them the chance to return to society and make a contribution. It’s all about changing our perspective and, I’m very sure that, with time, we’ll become more accepting towards ex-offenders, and give them a second chance.
I feel heartened after hearing that an ex-offender has smoothly reintegrated back into the community. One of them sent me a text saying, “I’m getting married; I still remember you, Ma’am, thank you very much.” It’s these little things that keep me keep going.
Ms Nina Tan, 39, is a Lead Specialist with the SPS and Rai’s supervisor. She shares how Rai goes the extra mile to serve ex-offenders.
Rai may come across as someone who’s very strong, but she’s compassionate, empathetic and has a gentle demeanour. We’ve worked together on several cases, one of which involved a female ex-offender with special needs, and who had difficulty in speaking.
Rai sat patiently with her to try to understand every single word that the ex-offender was saying. In fact, she was really creative in communicating with her, not just with words but also through drawings and hand actions.
Our work isn’t easy as we work with high-risk offenders and our hours are unpredictable. But Rai manages well and every time she comes to work, we can see her happy, bubbly personality. She brings a positive vibe and is a great influence in our office.
A Career in the Home Team
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