Ex-convicts worry about stigma, says psychologist

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By Sarah Hafizah Chandra & Alverdtekoster Anyap

KUCHING: One of the biggest worries of ex-convicts when they get out of prison is community acceptance.

Community acceptance is very important for them to return to the right path and avoid falling back into the crime pit.

Dr Bernard Ting concurred that acceptance is always the first thing a former prisoner looks for upon finishing his or her sentence.

The medical lecturer at the Department of Psychological Medicine, Universiti Malaysia Sarawak said many times these inmates wanted to turn over a new leaf, but they were not given the opportunities.

“Reducing stigma towards inmates require actions from all parties in society. Awareness could start from the family and officials.

“Being accepted in their own community in particular would gradually tell the world that they can remain well,” Dr Ting told New Sarawak Tribune.

Having said that, he acknowledged that there was also a need to be aware of what caused the inmate to be imprisoned and whether he or she was remorseful over his or her wrongdoings.

He said if inmates did not have good insight and continued to get involved in crimes, then they might bring more harm when they are not in a controlled environment.

“It is essential to have rehabilitation while inmates are still in prison as they could be trained with life skills.

“Upon release, the officials could also gather some collaboration from community partners to get them a paid job.

“To reassure the employers, there could be continuous support such as police assistance in any grievance would be important especially if the inmates were involved in serious crimes – this is a concept called supported employment service,” he explained.

Dr Ting added that reoffending risk might be assessed by experts from time to time to ensure that inmates remain well in the community.

Noting how many former inmates had learnt some skills while they were imprisoned, he said prison officials could provide a good testimony to the potential employer if there was a need to reassure the employer that they behaved well in prison.

“The most suitable job for inmates is always tailored to the skills they have.

“In fact, many non-governmental organisations have started to pay attention to this group of people and willingly provide them working place to start a new life.”

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