From The Straits Times    |

I am petite and soft-spoken, so my family and friends were surprised by my decision to join Singapore Prison Service (SPS) at 18.

After junior college, I was offered a scholarship from the Ministry of Home Affairs and given the option to choose which home team department I wanted to work in. I decided on SPS because its tagline, “Captains of Lives”, resonated with me and my values. I believe that people who have
made mistakes deserve a second chance, and I felt that this way, I’d be able to impact other people’s lives and help make a difference.

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HAIR Alison Tay MAKEUP Zoel Tee
Top & pants, Stella McCartney. Necklace, Jil Sander. Heels, Charles & Keith. Bracelet, stylist’s own.

I grew up in a single-parent household – my dad left when I was six years old, so my mum brought me and my two siblings up single-handedly. I had the privilege to go to university, so I want to give back in any way I can to those who might not have been as fortunate.

When I first joined SPS, I found myself in a male-dominated environment. I thought I had to be like one of them, to appear tough and fierce, so that the inmates and staff would listen to me. But I realised after a while that I don’t have to try and be like a man to gain the respect and trust of the inmates and other officers. I just had to be fair but firm, and show genuine concern for the people around me.

Being a woman in a male-dominated environment has been more of a strength, because I am able to contribute in ways that are different from my male counterparts

In 2016, I became second superintendent at Institution B4, a pre-release centre. My job was to assist the superintendent and lead about 100 prison officers – 80 per cent of whom were men – to ensure the safe and secure custody of approximately 1,300 male prisoners. Back then, I felt a little insecure as to how they would take to a younger female supervisor, but over time, I got to know them better, and many of them felt comfortable enough to talk to me about any difficulties they were facing.

At times, I feel like being a woman in a male-dominated environment has been more of a strength, because I am able to contribute in ways that are different from my male counterparts. Some of the male inmates have been willing to share their problems and open up to me, so I could actually help them more.

As a mother and a wife, I’m able to empathise with their family members when they visit. I’m able to provide a listening ear and offer words of encouragement. I would also tell the male inmates to not give up for their mums and their wives, and to look forward to life outside of prison.

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PHOTOGRAPHY Veronica Tay & Vee Chin
ART DIRECTION Ray Ticsay & Adeline Eng
STYLING Lauren Alexa