Have you ever visited a jail or prison? It’s a bone-chilling experience. Doors clank shut behind you as if you are moving through concentric circles of Hades and the world as you know it no longer exists. In a society like Singapore, where the legal system is rigid and a British-style court system dispenses harsh punishments, prison can either turn a convict around or doom him to a life of recidivism.
Despite this reality, Singapore’s humanity is front and centre every time an effort is made to rehabilitate the incarcerated, and this article shines a light on one of the most inspiring organisations of all: The Yellow Ribbon Project!
One Inmate’s Story
His story isn’t unique: A young man raised in poverty with emotional issues leads a life of despair because in addition to being disadvantaged, he’s also gay. Turning to drugs and crime, his cycle of self-abuse continued unabated until it led where so many other dark stories do: prison.
Badly discriminated against in the general population due to his sexual orientation, this prisoner’s despair continued on a downward spiral until a miracle of sorts occurred. He was diagnosed with HIV and transferred to a unit exclusively for AIDS/HIV prisoners.
To this day, he still calls that transfer “the most rejuvenating experience in my 30 years of life.” Today, he is free and productive thanks to turning his life around.
All Walks of Life
You’ll find old men and young men — women and girls — in Singapore’s prison communities. As recently as 2015, a Straits Times article profiled improvements made on behalf of the country’s elderly incarcerated population.
Senior-friendly cells in Changi Prison and six other institutions were retrofitted with railings and handicap-style fixtures for the safety of these prisoners.
With more than 300,000 convicts in the system who are aged 65 and older, such improvements show a humane side of the Singapore penal system.
But this is no rosy picture. Life is difficult in prison. It can be life-threatening. Read updates on PrisonTalk and you will learn that deprivation and hardships are commonplace throughout the Singapore system where the convicted are so beaten down, they often leave prison in worse shape than they were in when they arrived — which is why the Yellow Ribbon Project is so important.
The Yellow Ribbon Project
The case study presented at the beginning of this article tells of a man who turned his life around while still in prison, but others are less fortunate. It’s terribly easy to fall back into bad habits post release and the stigma attached to formerly incarcerated people in Singapore is a nightmare. That’s why the Yellow Ribbon Project exists.
On average, 9,000 offenders are released from prisons and drug rehab centres every year and without a proper support system, many would be candidates for incarceration again.
The Yellow Ribbon Project is committed to freeing ex-offenders from what’s euphemistically called “a second prison.”
There are no steel bars, but post-prison success is too often impeded by mistrust, discrimination and prejudice that dogs men and women after their release. Yellow Ribbon supporters are working hard to ensure a society that’s more accepting of ex-prisoners and the abolishment of prejudice and stigmas that keep ex-offenders from enjoying a second chance at life.
In order to help raise the funds necessary to accomplish such worthwhile goals, Singapore hosts this philanthropic group’s popular annual run in early fall. It’s named the Yellow Ribbon Run, and every dollar raised at this high-profile event helps unlock that second prison door, so if you participate, you get the chance to engage both your heart and your feet to help bring about social change.
About the Race
As summer comes to its inevitable end, the Yellow Ribbon Run kicks off at 7:45 a.m. or 8:15 a.m. on 4th September 2016. Race-related activities take place at SAF Field in Changi Village, so whether you intend to run the competitive 10km or the 5km Fun Walk, your contribution toward changing attitudes and supporting ex-convicts will be counted!
If you wait until the regular registration period, you’ll donate more to the cause, but either way, your participation will raise hearts, minds and spirits.
Need a 10km to fill out your early fall running calendar? This is it. Pick up entitlements including a Puma brand t-shirt, e-certificate, sponsor-provided gifts, a finisher’s medal and a race bib with timing chip. Non-competitive walkers get the same booty minus a chipped race bib.
Race pack collection dates are 20th and 21st August between 11 a.m. and 8 p.m. at Suntec Singapore Convention & Exhibition Centre, level 3 Concourse.
Runners taking part in the 10km race are expected to pull out all stops because 20 cash prizes in both men’s and women’s categories will be awarded.
Those finishing in 4th through 10th places receive S$100. Come in third and claim S$200 or snag S$300 if you’re the runner up. We’re betting you’ve already got a goal in mind if you take the S$500 first prize in each gender category!
Will you celebrate your precious freedom by running “The road to acceptance” while counting your blessings and helping others?