WHEN people are sent to prison, they just stay in a small cell to serve out their sentence.
That’s what people like to think but it’s not quite true as the inmates are given the chance to learn an essential life skill through vocational and industrial training, aimed at helping them to start anew after completing their sentence.
Their ability to produce high quality goods is a manifestation of their self-development and desire to acquire a post-imprisonment survival skill.
The main skills taught include cooking, catering, baking, preparing frozen food, tailoring, doing laundry, handicrafts, as well as spa and facial services.
The annual Prison Infokraf Fair, organised by Malaysia Prisons Department, is an event that promotes and markets products made by the prison inmates under the ‘MyPride’ brand.
Sales are raking in millions of ringgit – up to RM34 million in a single year. The inmates also get a share of the income generated by the department.
The main objective is to let the public know that top quality products are made behind the prison walls “ready to be purchased and taken home”.
Sarawak Prisons director deputy prison commissioner Ajidin Salleh said the department viewed the community’s acceptance of MyPride products with pride.
“I hope through our Infokraf exhibition, the public can see the high-quality handiworks from all the prisons in Sarawak. These Malaysian products are not only of good quality but also halal and hygienic.
“For the food products, halal certificati
ons have been given by Jakim (Department of Islamic Development Malaysia) and Mesti (Makanan Selamat Tanggungjawab Industri) from the Food Safety and Quality Division, Ministry of Health Malaysia,” Ajidin said when launching the three-day Sarawak Prison Infokraf 2019 recently.
Apart from the Infokraf Fair, the products can also be purchased at prison galleries nationwide, while some are available online via http://tempahan.prison.gov.my/tempahan/
Ajidin said the department welcomes public feedback to further improve MyPride products.
“In this way, consumers who have been supporting MyPride products will be assured of the quality of their purchases.
“We hope the local community will continue to visit our product galleries,” he said.
On the upskilling of inmates, Ajidin pointed out that the department has always prioritised rehabilitation and redevelopment to reduce the crime rate.
He added that efforts are being made to ensure effective rehabilitation through education and skills training.
“Last year, a total of 52 inmates from Sarawak prisons had gone through training and skills certification programmes.
“The department also conducted intermediate-level training for four main categories to complement TVET (Technical and Vocational Education and Training) in meeting the need for skilled manpower,” he explained.
The categories are services and tourism, agriculture and plantation, development and construction, as well as transportation.
“We want those who leave the correctional institutions to be fully rehabilitated and well trained and no longer be a burden to society and the country.
“We hope to collaborate with government agencies, the private sector, and NGOs to achieve this vision and help make Malaysia a developed nation,” he said.
Ajidin said the programmes under government transformation initiatives include the Corporate Smart Internship (CSI).
Programmes, organised by the Malaysia Prisons Department through collaboration with statutory bodies, private companies, and NGOs at selected locations, have shown positive results.
Ninety-seven ODP (parolees) from the Sarawak State Prison had undertaken CSI last year through a partnership with several GLC and private companies such as Sime Darby Plantation in Sarawak and Felcra Berhad Wilayah Timur, Lypometal Sdn Bhd, Felda, and Poultry and Meat Sdn Bhd in Peninsular Malaysia.
Ajidin urged employers to help former inmates with jobs. He assured the department would be exploring new initiatives to strengthen the rehabilitation of prison inmates.
While noting that the Malaysia Prisons Department, which turned 229 this year, had gone through many changes, especially in rehabilitation programmes, he stressed all the efforts made would be meaningless if society at large does not allow former prison inmates to prove they can contribute to nation building.
“Society’s perception is important to ensure the effectiveness of the rehabilitation programmes. So do give them some space to change. Don’t continue to punish them as they have already gone through rehabilitation for their past mistakes.”
Ajidin is very thankful to the parties concerned for sharing the responsibility of rehabilitating the prisoners, saying, “The department welcomes support and contributions not only from government agencies but also NGOs, private companies, and even individuals.”
He hoped the Infokraf Fair had shed light on the rehabilitation process and changed public perception of reformed prisoners.
“Hopefully, cooperation from the various quarters, especially in crime prevention and rehabilitation of prisoners, will continue.
“All the donations and support we receive mean a lot in helping us to reshape those who strayed in life into better disciplined and more responsible citizens,” he said.