24 Aug 2005

Female prisoners work in call center behind bars in Singapore

Working a twelve hour shift is bad enough, but are these people being paid? "Chan also declined to say whether the prisoners are paid for their work, or to give any other details about the program’s finances." Working without monetary remuneration is slavery.

Simply because someone has commited a criminal offence does not mean the state has the right to deny the individual of their human rights.

The fact that the "clients did not want to be named due to concerns that links with a prison could hurt their business," is indicative of a wider issue. If the conduct of the Singapore Corporation of Rehabilitative Enterprises is adherring to human rights and proper treatment of inmates then surely the clients have nothing to fear.

Is the policy put in place to make money for Changi prison or rehabilitate offenders? What evidence is there that working 12 hours a day as a telemarketer will rehabilitate?

Questions need to be answered.

24 August 2005


SINGAPORE - Female inmates at a Singapore prison are working 12-hour shifts as telephone call-center operators and telemarketers in a state campaign to rehabilitate lawbreakers, an official said on Wednesday.

“It’s pretty much the same as a commercial call center, except it’s behind bars,” said Vincent Chan, a senior manager at the Singapore Corporation of Rehabilitative Enterprises.

“It’s our way of upgrading the old prisons’ industries and enhancing the inmates’ employability,” Chan said.

He said the call center is a cubicle-filled room about the size of a basketball court at the Changi Women’s Prison and Drug Rehabilitation Center.

The duties of the 38 inmates working there include answering questions about prepaid mobile phone cards and consumer products, he said, adding that supervisors monitor the calls to make sure they are limited to business.

The operators are trained to speak clearly and to soothe difficult customers.

The call center operates around the clock and has 10 clients, including a telecommunications company, Chan said. Clients did not want to be named due to concerns that links with a prison could hurt their business.

Chan declined to say whether the prisoners are paid for their work, or to give any other details about the program’s finances.

“I was a workaholic before, and not having anything to do in jail made me feel down,” Singapore’s Straits Times newspaper quoted a 32-year-old operator, who identified herself as Aris, as saying. “Being in this program helped me to be myself once again because I feel useful.”


Anonymous said...

Um. Maybe I'm just really really cynical here, but I rather suspect the "concerns" of the businesses have nothing to do with human rights - they're probably "concerned" about customers worried that their personal info might get into the hands of criminals. (Cf. also the kindergarten who had to refurnish the premises because a bunch of crazy parents freaked out when they found out that one of the teachers was gay.) As for the rehabilitative effect of telemarketing, I'm just waiting for the govt to come up with some lame variation of "Arbeit macht frei". You just know the Moral Majority types (cough, sputter) will lap it all up.

(Did you follow the Hitler-fans-in-sec-sch kerfuffle, btw ? Ghastly and idiotic as it is, I don't really know why anyone is surprised when the country is run on the "but the trains were on time !" principle.)

Mr Wang Says So said...

I feel very positive about the programme.

Prisoners on this programme will, after finishing their sentence, be able to leave prison, apply for a job and say, "I have work experience. I have been working as a telemarketer for the past three years."

Contrast other prisoners who, after finishing their sentence, leave prison, apply for a job and say, "For the past three years, I have not had any work at all."

My understanding is that Singapore's prisoners have always been paid for the work they do - the amount, however, is small; savings are compulsory; and they are only permitted to infrequently purchase small luxuries from themselves, eg a packet of prawn crackers; a magazine once a week etc.

Singapore's prisoners, however, are also never compelled to work. It is purely voluntary and in fact is perceived as a privilege. (Work is not an option for those prisoners who are rowdy, exhibit bad behaviour or otherwise pose a security risk eg the prison think that they might fight or try to run away).

Those prisoners who choose not to work will just sit in their cells; eat; sleep; take their daily walks and exercise in the prison yard etc.

Anonymous said...

It is a great job for them but they must for work long hours

lee hsien tau said...

The pay is damn fucking little that even if you worked for a year, you may receive less than $100. But it kills the time.