The Amazing Story Of How Malaysian Convicts Are Making Millions Of Ringgit From Prison
Life behind bars is often seen as a way to punish convicts for the evil things they have done but it also can be seen in a different light, where a person is given a second chance at life
The role of the Malaysian Prisons Department is to act as the professional correctional entity for the country.
It serves the society by incarcerating people who are sentenced by the courts, and it is entrusted with the responsibility to carry out its role as the institution of detention and rehabilitation.
As Malaysia strives to adopt a holistic approach in ensuring convicts undergo various rehabilitation activities until the day of their release, one particular area that deserves to be commended is the vocational and industrial section.
The public should be paying more attention to the Malaysian Prisons Department because it's doing some amazing job in providing training for inmates to equip them with vocational skills
Convicts are given a chance and under proper guidance and training, they are equipped with skills that will help them when they return to society after they finish serving their sentences.
Some of the main skills that they are taught include cooking, catering, bakery, frozen food, tailoring, dobby, handicraft, and spa and facial services.
Many convicts who undergo the programme would know how to produce food products and other things including songket cloth, batik, furniture, handicraft, metal products, and garments.
Some would also be involved in agriculture activities to produce vegetables and fish.
Products made by inmates under this programme is marketed under the brand name 'My Pride'. These items they produced are used in prisons and also marketed outside prisons and made available at various hypermarkets in the Klang Valley.
The Prisons Department, in a joint collaboration with the Malaysian Administrative Modernisation and Management Planning Unit (MAMPU), Prime Minister's Department Public Bank Berhad dan Pos Malaysia, launched the online site to sell My Pride products in February this year.
The main intention was to make My Pride products more accessible to the public and to save time and simplify the transaction process according to the present era.
But who would have thought that the Prisons Department could generate an impressive amount of revenue from the product sales last year - a staggering RM32 million in total!
According to Home Ministry's Deputy Secretary-General Datuk Wan Ali Besar, the Prisons Department was highly successful in its product sales last year by collecting a total of RM32 million, exceeding the RM30 million mark which was set for 2015.
It also surpassed the previous year's record, which was at RM28.8 million in 2014.
"From the total sale, food products, such as frozen foods recorded the highest collections with RM26.6 million. This shows that food products from the Prisons Department are at par with the products outside as they are of high-quality," prisons director-general Datuk Seri Zulkifli Omar revealed earlier this year.
What's even better is the fact that the Prisons Department shares a part of the income generated with the prison inmates
Back in February, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said that the Prisons Department is being made as an income-generating agency, and the government has also shared the income with inmates.
"It is not only for the department to profit from, but also to equip inmate with necessary skills that can be used to continue their life and earn income after being released from prison," he explained, as reported by New Sarawak Tribune.
"We encourage them to open personal bank accounts so that when they are released, they already have savings to carry on with their lives — this would help prevent a relapse into crime," he was quoted as saying by Borneo Post.
The Prisons Department is on track to hit its 2016 target which is set at RM34 million
Utusan Malaysia quoted Pahang Prison Director Datuk Abdul Mohamad Basir as saying that the target is achievable given that the value of the product sales revenue has reached RM28.5 million last month.
"The inmates have immense skills to produce a product, especially handicrafts. The goods produced by these inmates have also gotten a really positive response from the market," he said.
According to him, more than 8,000 prisoners nationwide have been participating in this vocational training programmes so that they can be independent when they get out of jail
As the authorities play their part in ensuring that these offenders undergo vocational training and education as part of their rehabilitation and in turn, reaped rewards in monetary terms, the ultimate aim is still to reduce the convicts' recidivism (relapse into criminal behaviour) rate.
Many studies have suggested that prisoners are more likely to reintegrate into the community upon release when they are provided with technical skills and undergo courses that improve their communication and organisation skills.
Still, society also plays a major role in accepting these ex-convicts into their respective community.
"People need to understand the ex-cons. Try putting yourself in the ex-cons’ shoes. Has it ever occurred to you why the ex-cons would resort to crime in the first place? Some of them have no other choice but to commit crime, especially when they're in desperate need of money," Jeevan S Ramamurthy, the President for the Kuala Lumpur Social Development, Crime Prevention and Anti-Drug Volunteer Force Organisation (PENCEGAH) pointed out to Malaysian Digest last year when speaking on the topic of life after prison for offenders.