Ever wondered what female prison officers are like? Like, are they as sympathetic as they are tough?
We speak to two Singaporean women who work behind bars on how their careers have changed their own lives.
28, Staff Sergeant, Personal Supervisor at Changi Women’s Prison
I joined the prison service when I was 25. I was looking for a more fulfilling and exciting career and turned towards the public sector in search of it.
My day-to-day duties include unlocking inmates’ cells for their daily movements, [and facilitating] interview sessions with their lawyers, visits from family members, counselling sessions... and rehabilitative programmes that the inmates are scheduled to attend.
Once the busy part of the day is over, I see the inmates assigned to me to check on how they’re doing. We come up with solutions to some of their problems together. Common issues revolve around seeking employment and financial assistance after release.
It’s essential for a prison officer to be both firm and fair when handling inmates. The ability to empathise with people is also helpful as sometimes, in order to help an inmate, we have to truly understand their concerns and work with them to find the best way to help.
Through my interactions with the inmates, I’ve come to realise that sometimes, it’s not only bad decisions, but also bad situations, that landed some of them in prison. However, I believe with commitment to positive change, as well as pro-social support from families and the community, everyone will be able to lead a fulfilling and law-abiding life.
People are usually surprised when I tell them what I do. Lots of people have also told me that prison sounds like a dangerous environment for a woman to be in. But really, I think I’ve become a more disciplined, confident and caring person since joining the prison service.
I feel like female prison officers are just as capable as our male counterparts. At the end of the day, regardless of gender, what really matters is that we do what we can as individuals to make a difference in the lives of the inmates.”
“I think I’ve become a more disciplined, confident and caring person since joining the prison service.”
28, Assistant Superintendent of Prisons 1 (ASP 1), Housing Unit Officer at Institution B4 (Pre-release Centre)
I joined the Singapore Prison Service (SPS) when I was 26. I applied because it’s a meaningful job that allows me to help offenders reintegrate into the community. Curiosity also played a part, as I had always wanted to know what goes on behind the prison walls.
I’m currently working at a male institution called the Pre-release Centre (PRC), located in Institution B4. The inmates housed there are usually at the tail-end of their sentences, and there’s a prerelease programme that helps them get family support and financial aid referrals so they’ll be more motivated to stay on the right track after release.
As a Housing Unit Officer, I lead a team of officers and ensure that daily operations run smoothly. I also liaise with support units and other stakeholders and vendors to come up with programmes for the inmates. The working environment and demands of the job are quite unlike those of a ‘typical’ job. Due to its people-centric nature, integrity, tenacity, firmness, and compassion are key traits a prison officer has to possess.
This job has changed me for the better – I’ve become more disciplined. I’ve realised that we can only do so much to help others, and that they have to want help themselves in order to make a real change. I’ve also come to see how complex people are, and that you cannot simply categorise people as ‘good’ or ‘bad’. Everyone has their own story of how they ended up in prison, and the majority are receptive to rehabilitation programmes and initiatives. They sincerely try to change and want our support to do so.
I’ve witnessed acts of compassion, selflessness and honesty from the inmates. Like when one of my inmates had injured himself, many of the others were quick to offer help. It’s evident that most of them truly look out for each other, which reminds me to look for the good in everyone.
Perhaps the most common assumptions about female prison officers are that we deal with female inmates only, or that we are fierce and manly due to the nature of our job. SPS does have female officers deployed in male institutions, and I just want to put it out there that we female officers are actually a warm and wonderful bunch!”
“I’ve come to see how complex people are, and that you cannot simply categorise people as ‘good’ or ‘bad’.”
Want to join the Singapore Prison Service?
A wide range of opportunities are available. For more information, visit www.sps.gov.sg/career-us.
Photography Nyen Art Direction Leong Li Yuan Makeup Leny Fu/PaletteInc using LANEIGE Hair Leny Fu/PaletteInc using KEUNE Haircosmetics Text Compiled By Adora Wong.