Thursday, March 28, 2013

Give ex-offenders a chance

Mar 29, 2013
MY SON was released from prison last September. He served a four-year sentence and has to wear an electronic tag for one year. He also needs to report to the police station once every two weeks.

He admits that he made a mistake, and wants to turn over a new leaf.

He is the family's sole breadwinner and is currently working as a technician, earning a gross monthly salary of $1,000.

After three months on the job, he was confirmed and promised a pay rise. But there has been no follow-up even after six months. Each time he raises the issue, it falls on deaf ears.

My son is now looking for a new job. But it is discouraging as many employers discriminate against him. Some require him to work long hours, others offer him ridiculously low pay, while the rest do not want to employ him at all.

This is because my son wears the tag and needs to report to the police station.

Why is he still being discriminated against when he has already paid his dues? How can he possibly change and be a better person when society is unable to accept him? It is no wonder that many former offenders return to prison. How can they possibly earn a living when employers are unwilling to give them a chance?

I do not deny that some former offenders return to a life of crime, but why discriminate against all the others just because of a few black sheep?

Everybody makes mistakes, but all deserve a second chance.

Fatimah Nachair (Ms)

[Another caring-to-the-point-of-over-protective (?) mother. Not quite sure how to describe her, but there is a hint of mothering when your mother writes to the press about your parole from prison.

So many misconception and unrealistic expectations in this letter.

"He has paid his dues".
Not exactly. If he has completed his sentence and paid his due, served his time/sentence, etc., he would NOT be electronically tagged. Prisoners given "parole" (not sure what they call in Singapore, so using the American term) with electronic tagging are technically still subject to prison regulations (i.e. they are still serving time) and may be recalled to prison during the duration of the term of the electronic tagging. So NO, he has NOT completed his sentence.

"Deserve a second chance"
If the complaint is that employers are unwilling to hire him or are trying to exploit him, my answer would be: He currently has a job with $1000 salary. That is $1000 MORE than what he would be getting in prison. His current employer HAS given him a second chance and after just 9 months, he is searching for ANOTHER job? Maybe I'm old fashioned, and 9 months these days are a lifetime (in which case the 1 year electronic tag must be an eternity, and the 4 years he spent in prison must have passed glacially), but I am from the generation that believes you stick with a job unless you have very good reasons to quit or change jobs. The fact that he has NOT taken up the other exploitative job offers indicate that his CURRENT employer is NOT exploiting him (as much).

Isn't that his second chance? Or you want his second chance to be gold-plated? Presented on a silver platter? Invitation sent by courier?

"It is no wonder that many former offenders return to prison... some former offenders return to a life of crime."
Maybe I am over-sensitive, but is that a threat? Blackmail? "Don't give my son a good job, he go back to be criminal then you know! And it will be all your fault!"

Or is it a highly sophisticated social commentary on our criminal-justice and social safety net/social compact where it is inherently "easier" to be incarcerated than to be "free" to struggle for a living with the rest of us? No?

To quote: "Dying is easy. Living is hard." This can be paraphrased to "Prison is easy. Freedom is hard" to suit this instance.

I hope that your son is actually doing his best to find his way in life. I hope that he is just considering all his options when he looked at other jobs and is realising that his current employer is NOT THAT BAD and while a little easy on the promises and tardy with following thru, is nevertheless giving him a decent job and a decent chance, and your son is appreciating his opportunity.

I hope that you are writing this letter on your own initiative out of concern for your son, and not at his instigation, and that you do so because you see his situation and feel more strongly about it than he does. I hope that when he finds out that you have written to the press, he will be horrified and mortified that you have made a big deal of the normal struggles of people trying to make a living regardless of whether they have a prison record or not. It would be a sign that his expectations are realistic and that is a good indicator that he will succeed.

I wish your son well, and you, I wish you peace of mind.]

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