Family reunion in prison
Posted on June 17, 2012, Sunday
Inmates have an emotional meeting with their families at a special gathering, dubbed JalinanKasih, organised by the Sabah Prisons Department
BOY’S wife was seven months pregnant when the court found him guilty of gang robbery about four years ago.
He described that day as one of the darkest in his life because his mistake caused him to miss the birth of his first-born.
And although over the years he has seen his son grow before his eyes, Boy was especially emotional when he got to hold three-year-old Arip in his hands for the first time recently.
“All the while, I could only see him and hear his voice over the phone when they came to visit me. There was this clear window separating us,” he said.
So when the Sabah Prisons Department announced there was going to be a special gathering, dubbed JalinanKasih, in conjunction with Father’s and Mother’s Days celebrations, the 28-year-old signed up and hoped he would be shortlisted.
“I was so happy when they told me my family had agreed to visit me, but of course, I was still sceptical as anything could happen at the last minute,” he recalled.
So he kept his fingers crossed until the day of the meeting. And while the 23 shorlisted candidates were queuing up, he tried to look over his prison-mates’ shoulders for his family.
“I was so happy to see Arip and my wife among the crowd. My parents and in-laws also came,” he said.
When they were finally reunited, he quickly held Arip and kissed him.
He tried hard to hold back his tears.
It was a bonus for Boy as he also had the chance to play dad. He sat Arip on his lap and fed his son fried noodles and fried chicken.
He has another two more years behind bars but the experience has taught him a valuable lesson.
“I want to be a changed man and make full use of the skills I gain here to seek employment. I want to be a responsible husband to my wife and father to Arip,” he vowed.
Another inmate, 24, who only wants to be known as Zul, said seeing his daughters, aged five and two, meant the world to him.
“I was imprisoned for drugs and robbery. It was painful to be parted from my family but I guess, this is the punishment for my past mistakes,” he admitted.
Not so lucky
Unlike Boy and Zul, Rahim was not that lucky.
“My family had promised to come but I guess something must have come up, and they could not make it. After all, they had to come all the way from Tawau,” Rahim said.
Although he tried to think positive, there was pain in the 25-year-old’s eyes. So to ease his heartaches, he sat together with a cell-mate and his family.
Rahim said he has another four months to go before he becomes free man.
“I was sentenced to four year’s jail for robbery. It is my biggest regret and if I could turn back time, I would avoid that day and the crowd I was with,” he said, adding that he could still remember clearly what transpired that day.
“It was on Feb 6, 2010 – my day off and I thought I should bring my wife and daughter to the state capital for an outing. So we left Membakut and put up at a relative’s house in Likas.
“Around 10am, a cousin of mine asked me to join them. He told me they wanted to buy shoes and later go for a drink. My wife had wanted to join us but I promised to take her and my daughter for an outing later that evening. So she took all my money and left around RM60 for me to spend. I did not mind, so I left with my cousins and a friend.”
They went to one of the shopping malls, did their shopping and bought some alcoholic drinks.
By 1pm, they were all intoxicated. Rahim’s cousins started to become a bit aggressive, bullied several people and asked for money.
“Obviously, I was with the wrong people at the wrong time. Someone lodged a report with the security guards who later came to check up on us.
“All the three persons with me that day managed to escape and I was left behind. I was caught, handed over to the police and found guilty. Now I’m paying for my mistake,” he said.
Just after a year behind bars, he suffered another blow when his wife filed for a divorce. He has no choice but to accept his fate.
“My only consolation is my daughter, I cannot wait to see her – she is eight this year,” he added.
No one in his village knows Rahim’s whereabouts, including his daughter.
“She is under the care of my parents and they told her I was working in the state capital. Whenever my mother and father come for visit, I would always ask for her but I never let them bring her here. I don’t even want to see her photograph because it would add salt to the wound,” Rahim said.
He is now counting the days till he is reunited with his daughter.
“I want to turn over a new leaf when I’m released from the prison. I might continue my work as a fishmonger back home or may be open a restaurant if I have enough money since I have picked up some cooking tips from managing the prison’s canteen,” he revealed.
At the end of the 45-minute meeting, Rahim and two others were let down by the families.
“When we call the inmates’ families, they would give us several excuses for not coming. The most commons ones were the distance and the transportation charges. Some just simply refused to attend the meeting,” said DSP Jomison Gondikit, Sabah Prison’s Department Rehiabilitation and Treatment section head.
Through their observation, he said they noticed the difference among the inmates before and after meeting their families.
“They would be more cheerful after seeing their families. That’s the objective of holding such gatherings – which is to tell the inmates they are not forgotten and there are people outside who love and care for them,” Gondikit added.
He disclosed they would hold similar meetings from time to time, especially during festive seasons.
“But of course, the candidates will have to be shortlisted. They have to be disciplined. These are the criteria,” he said.
Gondikit added that such meetings also served as a motivation for the inmates to be disciplined and behave in prison.