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Beyond Second Chances: From SCORE to Yellow Ribbon Singapore
Over 40 years after it was established, SCORE takes an exciting new step in its mission to help inmates and ex-offenders transform their lives for the better.

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GRAPHIC: Home Team News

As a youth, Azahari was led into a life of crime. He served several stints in prison for rioting and drug-related offences before receiving a 20-year sentence for drug trafficking. 

He was 20 years old at the time. “Is this what my life has amounted to?” he asked himself. “I knew it was up to me to change.”

With the support of his counsellors, Azahari resolved to start anew. He took his GCE “O” and “A” Levels at the Prison School and, having received a bursary from the Yellow Ribbon Fund, managed to secure a place at Singapore Polytechnic.

Azahari was determined to change. After serving 14 years, he was released for good behaviour. With the assistance of the Singapore Corporation of Rehabilitative Enterprises (SCORE), he found a job in the retail sector and, soon after, got married and started a family.

“My perspective on life changed,” he recalls. “I channelled my energy into my academic pursuits and graduated with a Diploma in Chemical Engineering in 2018.”

Walking Alongside Reformed Ex-offenders
Throughout Azahari’s rehabilitation journey, one constant was the support offered to him by SCORE. Established in April 1976 as a Statutory Board under the Ministry of Home Affairs, SCORE plays a vital role within Singapore’s correctional system by providing rehabilitation and aftercare services to inmates and ex-offenders.

On 1 May 2020, SCORE took the next step in this mission when it was renamed Yellow Ribbon Singapore (YRSG). The change marks a culmination of SCORE’s good work over the decades, with the term “Yellow Ribbon” (first introduced in Singapore in 2004) having become synonymous with how the community can offer a second chance to reformed ex-offenders.

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“What we do is walk alongside inmates and ex-offenders,” explains Paulin Chua, Director, Partnership@YR, YRSG. “Through training, employment assistance, work opportunities and community engagement, we help prepare them for their reintegration into society.”

A Legacy of Good
Every year, about 10,000 inmates complete their sentence and are released. Those determined to make a fresh start in their lives often face challenges ranging from rebuilding their lives and reconciling with their families to finding good jobs. 

To support such ex-offenders and their families, over the decades, YRSG has grown beyond its original mission of providing inmates with vocational and skills training. Besides offering rehabilitation and aftercare support and services, YRSG works closely with the Singapore Prison Service as well as its partners in the public, private and people sectors to mobilise community support for ex-offenders.

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Inspiring community action: Now approaching its twelfth edition, the popular Yellow Ribbon Prison Run attracts a range of participants from the community, from professional athletes and families to an enthusiastic core of partners and volunteers. PHOTOS: SPS

One YRSG initiative that has redefined Singapore’s understanding of the rehabilitation journey is the Yellow Ribbon Project. Launched in 2004, the campaign seeks to raise awareness, encourage acceptance and inspire action within the community on behalf of ex-offenders and their families.

No event demonstrates this better than the Yellow Ribbon Project’s signature event, the Yellow Ribbon Prison Run. Now approaching its twelfth edition, the Run begins in the Changi area and takes participants on a winding route that ends at the Changi Prison Complex, echoing the rehabilitation journey of inmates and ex-offenders. In 2019, the Run drew over 10,000 participants from all walks of life and helped raise over $125,000 for the Yellow Ribbon Fund, which supports rehabilitation programmes for inmates, ex-offenders and their families.

The rebranding of SCORE to YRSG will strengthen its association in the public eye with its mission to champion the reintegration of ex-offenders into society. As part of this change, YRSG will also adopt a new logo and tagline – “Beyond Second Chances.”

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Better jobs for a fresh start: Vocational training; employability skills training and career facilitation – these are just some of the ways that YRSG helps ex-offenders to secure better work opportunities. PHOTOS: YRSG, SPS

YRSG currently collaborates with 7,000 partners across the private, public and people sectors to help ex-offenders through training and employment assistance. The rebranding affirms YRSG’s commitment to move beyond a training-and-job-placement model to one that focuses on helping inmates and ex-offenders acquire and deepen skills for their long-term career development.

As part of this transformation, YRSG has piloted its TAP (Train, Attach and Place) and Grow initiative. Under Tap and Grow, YRSG partners like-minded employers, trade associations, training institutions and community partners to establish training academies inside our prisons. This allows inmates to undergo industry-specific training and secure jobs in the relevant sectors after their release.

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TAP and Grow: YRSG is working with like-minded industry partners like SPETA to offer specialised training and job opportunities to ex-offenders. PHOTO: YRSG

The Tap and Grow initiative is off to a promising start; under a Memorandum of Understanding signed in July 2019 with the Singapore Precision Engineering & Technology Association (SPETA), a training academy will be set-up at Changi Prison Complex. Inmates who complete the necessary training will be placed with SPETA member-companies after their release, as well as receive support from YRSG during their first 12 months of employment.

Paying It Forward
By walking with inmates and ex-offenders on their rehabilitation journey, YRSG has also brought them closer to the community. In March, inmates and ex-offenders came together to show their appreciation to COVID-19 frontliners. Inmates baked treats at the YR Industries bakery at Changi Prison Complex which were then delivered to healthcare institutions across Singapore by volunteers from partnering halfway houses.

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Top row: Volunteers delivering baked treats made by inmates to healthcare frontliners in March 2020. Bottom row: Sewing reusable face-masks to support community efforts against COVID-19. PHOTOS: YRSG, SPS

In April, a similar impulse to contribute saw women inmates from Changi Prison institution A4’s tailoring workshop produce reusable face-masks for migrant workers at dormitories. “This is the next bound for the Yellow Ribbon cause,” explains Mr Matthew Wee Yik Keong, CEO of YRSG. “A society where ex-offenders are actively paying it forward and giving back to the community is a more inclusive and cohesive society. Let us strive towards that.”

Another ex-offender who’s intent on paying it forward is Azahari. Having served his sentence, started a family and turned his life around, he’s now a volunteer with YRSG and the Singapore Anti-Narcotics Association.

“Yellow Ribbon did so much for me,” recalls Azahari. “The immense support from the staff to set me on the right path really moved me, and that's why I now assist families of inmates by conducting house visits, advising them and so on. This is my way of giving back to Yellow Ribbon and a society that helped me get back on my feet.”

Yellow Ribbon Singapore (YRSG)
Learn more about the rebranding of SCORE to YRSG at this link.
© 2019 Ministry of Home Affairs, Singapore. All Rights Reserved.

  1. by Mike Tan and Tiffany Tan
  2. 01 May 2020
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