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When Love Starts at Home: Helping Ex-offenders Take Responsibility for Their Lives
In our Mother’s Day Special, Chief Warder 1 Wendy Ong of the Singapore Prison Service explains how taking personal responsibility helps ex-offenders in their reintegration journey.

For Chief Warder 1 (CW1) Wendy Ong, 39, it’s all about helping ex-offenders help themselves, with patience and understanding. Having served with the Singapore Prison Service (SPS) for 19 years, she shares how her family’s support has helped her in fulfilling her mission as a Reintegration Officer (RO). 

11 May SPS Interview Mother's Day Wendy Ong
As an RO, CW1 Wendy Ong is committed to helping ex-offenders in reintegrate into society. PHOTO: Desmond Ang

Tell us about your role as a RO with the SPS. 
We work with offenders who are on community-based programmes to support their smooth reintegration back into society. These offenders may not have families to help them overcome challenges. We make sure that they abide by the programme regime, which may include curfews, urine tests, counselling sessions and being gainfully employed. We work with about 40 ex-offenders at any one time.

What are some common challenges faced by your supervisees? 
Some have little work experience and have difficulty adapting. Others find that the pay or job environment doesn’t suit them. 

During our sessions, we try to guide supervisees, advise them on what they should do and encourage good working habits. They need to realise that they have a responsibility to change. I’ll share with them that, “Your life is in your hands, so you have to decide what you want.”

On another occasion, I was with my children and husband when a former supervisee came up to me to say hi. I replied, “You look familiar,” but I couldn’t recognise him because he had put on weight! 

We talked some more and I learnt what he’d gone through after being released from prison. He’d managed to clear the debts he owed and was about to start his own business. That’s why we’re glad for everyone who takes responsibility for themselves and is able to reintegrate into society.

How does your family support your work with the SPS? 
My husband is a former Police officer so he understands the challenges of shift work and being on standby. He knows this is part of my job and he supports me. Our children are 7 and 8-years-old, and I try to manage my time well and to make sure my priorities at work and home are taken care of. 

Share with us how being a mother helped you understand supervisees who are mothers too? 
I attended to a supervisee about a year ago. It pained me to know that she was a mother like me but didn’t have custody of her two young children, and wasn’t able to enjoy being a mother until she made a decision to change. 

She was coping well during her first month in the programme, but then started feeling stressed and stopped taking medication for a mental condition that she had. 

When we visited her, her condition was erratic and she wouldn’t listen to us. It was our duty to ensure her safety and help her control her condition, and thankfully, her family members managed to convince her to admit herself into a medical centre for treatment. 
© 2019 Ministry of Home Affairs, Singapore. All Rights Reserved.

  1. by Desmond Ang
  2. 11 May 2018
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