The mission of the Singapore Prison Service (SPS) is to protect the society through safe custody and rehabilitation of offenders as well as co-operating in prevention and aftercare by focusing in three areas of concern.
• Partner in Criminal Justice
SPS’s work with offenders helps to ensure that Singapore is kept safe. Being part of the Criminal Justice System, SPS work very closely with the Judiciary and other partner agencies in the Home Team.
• Protecting Society through Safe Custody & Rehabilitation
The role of keeping offenders in custody is just a part of what SPS do. SPS is also committed to performing its duties in a humane manner, managed by a strict regimen of discipline and effective rehabilitation programmes.
SPS is committed to offering offenders the opportunity to reform, while helping them to learn the skills necessary for their re-integration. To realise this goal, SPS also work closely with their families and the community.
• Prevention and Aftercare
Daily contact with inmates will enable SPS to gather valuable information which may be used to detect or prevent crime. As such, SPS is able to assist other lead agencies in the Home Team, for example the Singapore Police Force, in crime detection and prevention. In addition, SPS provide aftercare services to offenders upon their release from custody, by directing them to community programmes and resources that could support them.
Education for youths and children at risk of drug abuse or crime is vital to SPS’s efforts in keeping Singapore safe. SPS conduct programmes about crime and its penalties that reach out to the larger community.
The Singapore Prison Service has a vision that aspire them to be captains in the lives of offenders committed to their custody. They will be instrumental in steering them towards being responsible citizens with the help of their families and the community.With this goal in mind, they will thus achieve a secure and exemplary prison system.
Furthermore, SPS Prison officers are committed to balance the needs of secure custody and discipline, while identifying opportunities for rehabilitation amongst those inmates who are capable of being rehabilitated.They believe that every Prison officer needs to work with the wider community of volunteers, support groups and employers to deliver effective rehabilitation programmes to the inmates.
Ultimately, Captains of Lives is built on three principles: Rehab, Renew, Restart.
Rehab is a commitment to SPS’s programmes and counsellors within the system to support inmates who have proven that they want and are able to change.
Renew is a commitment an inmate makes to change his/her life for the better. Looking beyond their imprisonment, they demonstrate a willingness and desire to renew their lives.
Restart is a commitment to garner the support of the community. Through the CARE Network, offenders are given the opportunity to restart their lives.
Lystraa Chan from jobsDB.com speak to RO 2 Yong Ka Jun, Desmond ,SSgt Norman Tan and SSgt Richard Koh from SPS to find out more about their interesting roles and individual job scopes.
As a SDO, RO 2 Yong Ka Jun, Desmond is responsible for staff development matters such as planning in-house trainings and courses for officers in Cluster B. He works closely with Heads of Institutions or Units to plan and review the training needs of our officers. Part of his work responsibilities includes training and guiding our officers on usage of HR systems and applications.
In addition, he manage the Staff Well-being Committee, which seeks to promote work-life balance by planning, organizing and coordinating welfare activities for officers deployed in Cluster B.
What are you responsible for in your line of work?
A prison officer’s work is multi-faceted and requires him to put on different hats on different occasions.
After passing out from Basic Officer’s Course, I went through my foundational posting as a Housing Unit Officer in the former Khalsa Crescent Prison. As a Housing Unit Officer, I realized that I am not only a disciplinarian and a custodian who is responsible for the discipline and safety of inmates who are under our custody, but also a supervisor and a coach to both staff and inmates.
In my subsequent staff work posting as a Staff Development Officer, I was exposed to the functions of various supporting units within prisons and how they work together to support our core business.
What personal qualities should a Housing Unit Officer possess?
As mentioned earlier, a Senior Prison Officer could be playing several concurrent roles at the same time. I would personally feel that other than being able to multi-task, he should also have a clear picture of when and what role he ought to be playing at different occasions.
In the Housing Unit, as a coach and supervisor, the Housing Unit Officer needs to have a listening ear and good analysis skills to discern the genuine needs of the inmates and staff under his charge. Situational awareness is also critical, as he will need to flag out tell-tale signs of disturbances and work closely with relevant supporting units to preempt any crisis.
How meaningful is your work?
After working in the department for some years, I realized that every aspect of our job as a prison officer has a meaning tied to it. To me, this job is a noble calling as we are placed in a strategic position where we could be assuming the role of a change agent in someone’s life. On a larger perspective, our work in the criminal justice process also contributes to the peace and stability in Singapore.
What will you gain in your work that will equip you well for your future endeavours in the Singapore Prison Service?
My current post allows me to hone my interaction skills with people and train me to analyze the circumstances and person whom I am speaking with so that I could pitch my conversation accordingly. I would think that this is a very useful skill for prison officers as we are ultimately in the “people” business.
What are the most challenging aspects of your job?
The most challenging aspect of my job perhaps would be the nature of the work itself. The job is dynamic and requires one to constantly reprioritize tasks on hand and as a Senior Prison Officer, there will be times where he will be placed in a position which calls for him to make critical decisions. However, it is through these challenges that we hone ourselves to be thinking officers who can rise up to the challenges our work presents.
As an OPD Officer, SSgt Norman Tan works with other officers to plan, develop and review work processes so as to enhance the operational capabilities of Cluster A. These include:-
a. Monitoring, planning and implementing Operations Planning projects;
b. Drafting and reviewing Cluster A’s operation plans; and
c. Planning, coordinating and conducting of contingency exercises.
What do you do as an OPD officer?
As an OPD officer, I am greatly involved in the planning of contingency exercises and/or staff mobilisation. We are to ensure that Cluster A is always in operational readiness and prepared to respond to any incidents or disturbances such as a fire.
It is also my responsibility to revise and update policies, standing orders and procedures in order for all Cluster A staff to keep abreast of information pertaining to the operations and security of the Cluster.
What are the challenges that are part and parcel of your work?
It is necessary for all Prison Officers to build up our foundations as a Personal Supervisor before taking up other job functions. Primarily as a Personal Supervisor, I worked with a team of officers to maintain a high state of vigilance and security consciousness in the housing unit. I was also required to conduct regular interview sessions with the inmates and charting of their personal route map and any other recommendations that are beneficial to the inmates’ rehabilitation.
One of the challenges most of the Prison Officers would face is the ability to juggle between rehabilitation while maintaining order and discipline among the inmates. As we oversee a large group of inmates in our daily work, we have to be observant of the surrounding and at the same time, engage the inmates in purposeful interaction. A better understanding of the inmates and their treatment needs will help us to manage them better.
As an OPD officer I need to work closely with staff from the institutions, other units/ branches, partners and vendors to see through the implementation of projects. One needs to be efficient and forward looking when charged with the responsibility of enhancing Cluster A’s operational capabilities, in view of the dynamic nature of operations.
What personal qualities would make a person well suited for this job?
A Prison Officer needs to be street smart as he needs to manage people from all walks of life. He/she must be a team-player and yet be able to work independently when the occasion calls for it.
How will your experience as an OPD officer help you in your future postings?
My experience as an OPD officer has taught me the importance of maintaining a high level of security in our workplace. I learnt that we should not be complacent in our job, but to remain vigilant and be security minded in order to ensure safe custody of inmates as well as creating a safe workplace for the staff.
How can an OPD officer help benefit the entire Singapore Prison Service with his/her work?
With the security conscious and aware of security needs of Cluster A, he will make Singapore Prison Service operational ready and well prepared for any contingencies which may arise.
Job Description: As a Personnel Officer, SSgt Richard Koh facilitates the management of Cluster B’s’s staff matters. SSgt Richard Koh assist Staff Development Officers in:-
a. Planning and coordinating trainings for officers;
b. Coordinating staff postings within Cluster B or from other units;
c. Manpower deployment; and
d. General HR-related matters.
What does a Personnel Officer do?
I am part of a team who takes care of over 600 officers in Cluster B. I primarily assist the Personnel Planning & Development Manager in coordinating manpower matters such as staff posting and deployment matters.
On top of that, I also help the Staff Development Officers in the organizing of well-being events, as well as in-service training sessions for staff. Another part of the job I enjoy very much is to conduct orientation programme for new officers. Through this, I am able to help them better adjust to the organization’s culture and environment.
What is your working environment like?
Back in the days when I was a Personal Supervisor, in the now defunct Queenstown Remand Prison, the team-spirit among officers had always been strong. I vividly recall as a new officer, never had I felt intimidated by my work as I knew that there would be support from the experienced officers. These officers became my mentors in guiding me along with the jailcrafts and imparting their valuable knowledge to me.
Now in my post as a Personnel Officer, I have to liaise with a wider range of officers. I strongly believe that officers do genuinely care for each other and will go the extra miles to render help to officers in need.
The human dynamics in the Singapore Prison Service is what makes it so interesting whether you are performing operational duties or like me, in an office environment. Everyday is completely different despite the routines and core duties that all of us have to carry out. That makes coming to work a joy for me as there will be challenges that I have to undertake. Through these challenges I learn to deliver better quality work.
What personal qualities would make a person well suited for this job?
For any Prison Officer, integrity and strong moral values are important for us to carry out our duties. It serves as a ‘backbone’ to how we can help the inmates or even fellow officers directly or indirectly. A person who is quick thinking would be able to handle multiple tasks on hand.
Other than that, I feel that we need to have that inquisitive mind that constantly wants to know and learn more. Humility is perhaps the most important quality that I think anyone should possess. By being humble, more opportunities would be presented for my learning and development.
How will your experience as a Personnel Officer help you in your future postings?
My stint as a Personnel Officer has given me the confidence to communicate more effectively with my colleagues. This skill is invaluable in any post as our job basically entails constant interaction with many different people. Beside that, being in Cluster B Staff Development unit had allowed me to know a bigger circle of officers.
As a Personnel Officer, I was taught the importance of data integrity as we have to ensure that all the presented data is accurate so as to be fair to the staff. I would bring this along with me to remind myself that in every little thing that we do, there could be a bigger implication that we cannot imagine in the first place.
I feel that any job, be it operational or staff work, would require the person to have that keen interest in what he or she is doing. So long as there is passion, there will be nothing too difficult to accomplish.
What are the major challenges that you face in your work?
I believe that there is no work in this world without challenges. In my case, one of the major challenges that I have to face is to communicate effectively with officers who are more senior and experienced than me, while delivering the standard of work that they expect from me. Getting to know so many people can be quite an effort as well. With a curious mind, I learn that lending a listening ear will achieve greater understanding so that I can appreciate the issue at hand better.
In addition, it was a challenge when I switched from being a Prison Officer who enforces strict discipline in inmates, to being a staff officer in a supporting unit. I had to adjust my communication style as the profile of people that I have to liaise with is significantly different.
SSgt Richard Koh, SSgt Norman Tan and RO 2 Yong Ka Jun, Desmond ( Left to right)
Did you know?
Our Singapore Prisons Emergency Action Response Force, better known as SPEAR Force, is our specialist tactical unit tasked to carry out a variety of roles for contingency response in anti-riot management, high security risk escorts and other special duties.
SPEAR officers are highly trained through rigorous physical training, combat shooting, tactical rappelling, close-quarters battle shooting and various types of tactical skills training. They are trained in both lethal and less-than-lethal weaponry to handle different contingencies and disturbances, which is essential to make prisons safe in a dynamic security climate.
Our SPEAR Force benchmarks itself with other correctional tactical units to acquire and develop new expertise and capabilities. In 2009, SPEAR Force participated in the Mock Prison Riot held at West Virginia, US, and clinched the top position for “Overall Skills Competition (Team)”.
In 2010, Singapore Prison Service organized the inaugural Asian Prisons Lockdown Challenge to pit the skills of the officers from regional correctional services. Nine participating teams from Brunei, Hong Kong, Macao and Singapore took part in the competition. Our two SPEAR teams came in overall Champion and 2nd Runner-up.
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