Inaugural Yellow Ribbon Project to encourage Singaporeans to accept ex-offenders and facilitate their reintegration into society
SINGAPORE, September 24, 2004 – On October 2, Singaporeans will be invited to wear yellow ribbons to show their support for and encourage the 11,000 ex-offenders who are released into the community each year, and who struggle to regain a foothold in society and lead normal lives.
The Yellow Ribbon Project, which is the brainchild of the Community Action for the Rehabilitation of Ex-Offenders (CARE) Network, wants all Singaporeans to offer these ex-inmates on the mend a second chance and reaccept them into the community.
Said Mr. Jason Wong, chief executive officer of the Singapore Corporation of Rehabilitative Enterprises (SCORE) and the chairman of the Yellow Ribbon Project Organising Committee, “Having served their time, these ex-offenders and their families face the challenge of having to overcome the social stigma that is attached to them.”
“The Yellow Ribbon Project seeks to unlock this ‘second prison’ – to help ex-offenders who are taking responsibility for their own actions, earn the trust and acceptance from their families, friends, neighbours, employers and the general community and stay out of prison.”
His Excellency, President S R Nathan and Mrs. Nathan will attend a charity concert at the Singapore Indoor Stadium on Saturday, October 2. Performers include local artists Sheikh Haikel and Azrina Ahmad; the Taiwanese groups B.A.D and Tension, who will do a special rendition of the Yellow Ribbon song; and Chinese singer Anson Hu.
As the guest-of-honour, Mr. Nathan will also appoint Rehabilitation Ambassadors, who will be tasked with spreading the message of reacceptance to the community as employers, entertainment and sports celebrities. The highlight of the evening is when the audience joins Mr. Nathan and concert performers in forming long stretches of yellow ribbon, to symbolize the community’s acceptance of ex-offenders. (Tickets for the concert are available from all SISITC outlets.)
During the remainder of the week, Singaporeans will be encouraged to wear the yellow ribbons as they go about their daily lives. Religious organisations, schools, businesses, aftercare agencies voluntary welfare organizations and community groups will distribute the ribbons. The Roman Catholic Prison Ministry alone has requested for 135,000 ribbons.
The money raised from the sale of yellow ribbons and other activities will go to the Yellow Ribbon Fund, which has been set up to help finance rehabilitative and aftercare services for ex-offenders, inmates and their families. It will also be used to help run awareness programmes and activities to educate the community of the need to give second chances to ex-offenders.
Director of Prisons, Mr. Chua Chin Kiat, said, “Rehabilitative and aftercare programmes can only go so far in facilitating the reintegration of ex-offenders. On release, they face discrimination and strained family ties, which in turn can lead to many other social problems. Ultimately it is the social environment that is of the most importance in helping ex-offenders stay out of prison.”
The yellow ribbon is a reference to the popular 70s hit in which the performer, singing as an ex-offender, returns home from prison and asks for a show of forgiveness from his wife by tying a yellow ribbon around the old oak tree.
Other activities during the week include the free screening of a community film, Coming Home, which follows the difficult journey and struggles of three ex-offenders who, having served their sentence, are released from prison. Starring in the film are Moses Lim, Irene Ang, Melody Chen and Aaron Aziz. The film has been produced in collaboration with Central Community Development Council and will be shown on Saturday, October 9, at the open field opposite the Khatib MRT station.