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My Mum, My Inspiration (Part 1)

Inspired by his mother’s actions, SGT Haikal Mirza Mahadi, a Correctional Unit Officer from Institution TM1, engages with and assists inmates during their incarceration.


What are your day-to-day duties at the prison school?
The inmates move between venues a lot: having lessons, tutorials and out-of-cell activities. My day-to-day routine involves escorting them to and from their cells to their class and engaging them for their in-care needs (anything to do with their incarceration such as their cell, their personal items etc.) and their rehabilitation needs. We would also assist in making arrangements for their exams.

His mum’s strong belief in second chances inspired Haikal to do the same.

When on duty, do you feel like you're walking in your mother's shoes?
My mom is always willing to give people another chance. In fact, beyond giving second chances, she does not judge someone by his or her past mistakes. When I work with inmates, I too do not judge them for their mistakes.

When working in a prison, we have the opportunity to understand the psyche of offenders. Once we get to know them as a person and understand why they committed the crime(s), we can better assist them in their rehabilitation and reintegration. That's what makes being a Captain of Lives interesting and meaningful.

Everyone will focus on you when you make a mistake, but each of us has also made mistakes before. When you are the hand that reaches out to someone in need, it means a lot to him or her. Most importantly, they must recognise that they have made a mistake and must be willing to make a change.

Haikal engaging inmates in a classroom.

Has there been a time where you felt like giving up, but you got inspiration from your mother and picked yourself up?
Being the optimistic person she is, my mum definitely inspires me whenever I encounter disappointments. I tend to focus on the problem, but she gives me words of affirmation and motivational support.

The line that Haikal’s mother often says to him.

Such words of wisdom from my mum motivate me to keep going. No matter how down I am feeling, my mum would tell me there's a light at the end of the tunnel, and to just have faith and work on solving the issue.

Aside from that, is there any instance where your mom particularly inspired you?
Once, she caught me skipping school to play football. Instead of telling my dad, who was the disciplinarian, she gave me a chance and said: “Okay, this is between you and me. I won't tell your dad, and you better not prove me wrong in giving you a chance.”

When she gave me that trust, it became one of the key moments in my life when I was growing up, because she chose to explain to me why it was wrong instead of giving me a scolding. That to me is something that is very relatable to what I'm doing now because we're giving inmates second chances and helping them turn over a new leaf.

Haikal engaging an inmate.

What is your approach to inmates who violate rules?
Sometimes, when I catch them violating prison rules, they get agitated or aggravated, and tend to argue even though they are in the wrong. This often reminds me of myself when I was younger. Although I was wrong, I would often argue with my mum to prove that I was right.

Having gone through such experiences, I explain to the inmates: “Hey, come on, own up if you did that thing wrong. Admit your mistakes, then face the consequences.” I realise that was what my mum has been teaching me:  to take responsibility for my actions.  I realise this approach suits me more than the hard approach. When you make somebody understand and own up to their mistake, it impacts them in a more positive way. 

“I am the person I am today because of my parents:  the strict one, my dad, and the 'soft’ one, my mum. I'm very thankful for my mum. No words will ever be enough for me to thank my mum for her efforts and sacrifices. I just want her to know that whatever I've achieved thus far, it's all because of her motivation since the very first day.” – SGT Haikal Mirza Mahadi

Written by

Toh Rui Hao


9 May 2024

Managing Prisons & Rehabilitation
Managing Reintegration & Aftercare
Prisons & Rehabilitation
Corrections & Rehabilitation
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