Hello, my name is Tsuey Xin. I had just graduated from the University of Toronto when I volunteered with SUKA Society in August 2012. During my volunteering stint, I worked with a former prison counselor now employed by SUKA Society to conduct their Relapse Prevention Programme in juvenile prisons for young offenders.
Relapse is a re-occurrence of a past condition. It is something prisoners struggle with to break free from their life of crime. Through the Relapse Prevention Programme, SUKA Society aims to motivate to change and to provide young offenders with the knowledge and desire to do so.
During the programme, young offenders were required to write or draw a list of things based on the phrases: “Saya Suka…” (“I Like…”), “Saya Tidak Suka…” (“I Dislike…”), and “Saya Kesal…” (“I Regret…”). I was asked to record the experience of the prison officer through the writings and drawings of the young offenders.
The time spent working with SUKA Society brought different emotions. On one hand, I was sympathetic towards the plight of the young offenders; on the other, I was skeptical.
I sympathized with the young offenders’ stories because their present circumstances were often the result of broken families, negative peer pressure, and even negative influence from the media. The lives that these young offenders have are very different from most people. Male offenders had committed various crimes, ranging from rape to arson. Female offenders had been rape victims or were once “Minah Rempit”, involved in illegal racing activities. Story after story followed – of injustice, both by others against them, and by them against others.
Yet, at the back of my mind, I could not help wondering why they committed crime when there were always alternatives. I found it difficult to accept that many of these young offenders failed to make correct decisions in their lives. Was it really that hard?, I thought. I was also skeptical of SUKA Society’s approach: Will their effort make any difference in preventing a relapse into crime?
This is where my volunteering stint with SUKA Society opened my eyes. To me, saying “Saya Kesal” could just be empty words. However, it is important to celebrate small successes and give people second chances. To be able to have these young offenders admit to their wrongdoings is a starting point for change in a young offender’s life. This is important, considering many of them would vehemently deny their wrongdoings upon entering juvenile prisons. Something as simple as saying “Saya kesal” helps them open up and realize that it is not always everyone else’s fault. It is time to stop blaming others and take responsibility for their own actions. They have a second chance to live a better life. Knowing this helps me see them in a different light.
After reading lists and lists of “Saya Kesal”, I almost lost hope thinking to myself that they are not capable of any positive change. But now, I begin to see that perhaps… just perhaps… saying “Saya Kesal” is not a final step, but rather the first step to change. Volunteering at SUKA Society has taught me to view young offenders from a different perspective. The strong emphasis that every child deserves a second chance makes me stop and remember that the young offenders in prison are actually still children. As such, they need to be given the opportunity to start over and live lives they can be proud of.