Published: 10 November 2023
1. Since 2010, we have seen how the Yellow Ribbon Community Project (YRCP) has grown, not only in terms of the number of constituencies taking part, but we also saw an increase in the number of volunteers, from 74 to more than 1,000.
2. Across Singapore, we have created a platform to reach out to inmates and their families, and what is key is that we have been able to engage our volunteers and provide assistance to families while their loved ones are in the prison.
3. We have received very positive feedback, not only from the families and the inmates, but also from our volunteers - they found the experience to be meaningful and at the same time, we have been able to encourage more volunteers to come on board.
4. Moving forward, we are going to do few things that not only will help to strengthen the bigger ecosystem of rehabilitation and reintegration journey of our inmates, but also to support their families.
Key Areas of the YRCP Expansion
Deepen Collaborations and Partnerships
5. One aspect is that we want to deepen collaboration and partnerships with our community partners. For example, we are working with FITRAH to reach out to the Malay/Muslim inmates and their families. This will open up more opportunities for engagement with inmates and their families, as well as the help that can be provided to them.
6. At the same time, we also looking at our community partners, to see how we can get more partners to come on board. We are also looking at how families can benefit from the existing national platforms that we have. This will strengthen and tighten the whole process of providing support to inmates and their families.
Encourage Throughcare Befriending
7. We are also looking at how we can encourage throughcare befriending. Today, you see our befrienders and YRCP volunteers reach out to families while their loved ones are in prison. We want to see how our YRCP volunteers can provide support to inmates and their families beyond their incarceration, after their release from prison. This is important because we know that befriending plays a very important role in the rehabilitation and reintegration journey. This additional support beyond incarceration “aftercare” is consistent with the approach of the Singapore Prison Service (SPS) of providing “throughcare” support to inmates.
8. In addition to the various support in the bigger ecosystem such as the Desistor Network and other efforts undertaken by SPS, we want to provide this additional support to ex-offenders and families who may face issues or problems post-incarceration. We want ex-offenders to know that there are people around them to approach so that they do not have to go back to former lives, where they may lack prosocial support, and for their families to know that YRCP volunteers will be a constant touchpoint for the family during and after their loved ones’ incarceration.
Enhance Training for Volunteers
9. The area of rehabilitation and reintegration of providing support to inmates and their families, is a very specialised area of work that goes beyond providing financial assistance. It is about understanding what inmates and their families face during incarceration. They not only have to face the loss of financial avenues and support, but the stigma of their loved one’s incarceration may affect their self-esteem.
10. So, the volunteers must understand these issues and know how to handle them. We want to enhance the training and provide the necessary skillsets and knowledge to our volunteers. This will enable our volunteers to understand the issues that inmates and their families are facing when they engage them, and also the avenues that they can use to help inmates and their family.
11. We will be looking at how we can enhance the training for our volunteers in areas such as skills on managing family members’ emotions arising from incarceration of loved ones; understanding of drug addiction and challenges in reintegration; mental resilience; restorative practice; and self-care.
12. I feel that these trainings will help equip our volunteers with the skillsets to be able to assist the families effectively. They will be able to approach, or direct the families to the correct organisations, if additional support required. We are very blessed, very fortunate that there is a very big ecosystem, and there are many wonderful people and organisations that want to and contribute to this meaning journey. So, we want to equip them with the necessary skillsets and knowledge in order for us to be able to engage inmates and their families more effectively.