Everyone deserves a second chance
A MILLION different thoughts crossed my mind as I drove myself to Puncak Borneo Prison on 16th January 2014 to visit Kuching Integrity School. What crimes had these ‘juveniles’ committed to land themselves in prison? How much had they changed? Had they really repented their past crimes? Or worse, would a prison riot break out?
Of course the last thought was absolutely ridiculous. There were bound to be police officers and guards heavily guarding the place and surely the inmates would not behave in such a way.
As we were led to the Kuching Integrity School built for juvenile offenders, I was actually quite surprised to see 10 inmates neatly dressed in white shirts and pants, lining up side by side patiently waiting for us to arrive.
At the integrity school, the inmates get involved in a lot of beneficial activities, among them are computer classes, celebrating national day, teacher’s day, and cultural clubs. The school has a library equipped with textbooks, reference books as well as motivational books and a computer laboratory with six computers available for students to use.
The Kuching Integrity School is one of the six such integrity school throughout the country. It began operations on February 9, 2009. Since then, 71 students have been enrolled.
For the 2014 academic session, 10 students and seven qualified teachers are under the supervision of Danggot Chulob, the supervisor of the integrity school in Kuching.
The integrity school provides four classes: rehabilitation class, pre-PMR, SPM class which include subjects such as Bahasa Melayu, English, Mathematics, Science, History Islamic study as well as moral study, and skills classes in which the students learn to use the computer.
Since it began operation, Kuching Integriti School has garnered second place for ‘Outstanding School Award’ for PMR results and third place for ‘Outstanding Student Award’ in 2010.
As for the curriculum level, the students of the Kuching Integrity School got second place in Nasyid and Marhaban Competition for the Prison Institute of Sarawak level at year 2011.
This was the second visit for Welfare, Women and Family Development Minister Datuk Fatimah Abdullah. She said that everyone deserves a second chance despite whatever mistakes they may have done and if the inmates were given the proper, education, counseling and motivation, they would be able to excel in society depending on their potential.
Juvenile offenders are placed in three different schools according to the seriousness of their crimes. The first type is Tunas Bakti School in Kuching where inmates with light crimes will be placed and Henry Gurney School for those with heavier crimes. The third and last type is the integrity school where inmates with more serious cases are sent.
According to Danggot, most of the inmates in the prison really ought to be given a second chance by society. He said that his experience as the supervisor has been really different from a normal school as he has gotten to know the inmates personally and also understands their background.
During their time there, the inmates have proven their capacity to turn over a new leaf. He said that some of the inmates had never been to school before they came to integrity school and that some of them didn’t even know how to read.
The integrity school has given the inmates a second chance at an education that they didn’t have and have shown interest in learning.
The impressive part was that, Danggot proudly said that one of the PMR students in the integrity school who had completed their time decided to continue their studies in SPM, showing that the student really did want to repent what they did and found their studies beneficial.
After completing their studies in the integrity school, inmates will also be given the chance to pursue their studies in higher institutions to obtain their diploma, degree, master degree and even phD.
As of this year, plans for the building of Henry Gurney School for inmates who committed less heavy crime will be launched at the Puncak Borneo Prison and hopefully 50 Sarawakian inmates currently at Henry Gurney School in Keningau, Sabah can be transferred here.
A visit to the Puncak Borneo Prison was really an eye-opener as it taught me about second chances. If we did something wrong, wouldn’t any of us want or deserve a second chance?