Reintegration through entrepreneurship

Rokiah Mahmud

The Prisons Department has always given former inmates the opportunity to venture into entrepreneurship training to provide a platform to generate income and meet their daily needs.

Training includes carpentry, dress-making, food and beverage course and more.

Minister of Home Affairs Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Kerna Dato Seri Setia (Dr) Haji Awang Abu Bakar bin Haji Apong recently officiated the opening of a showroom at Beribi Light Industrial Area for goods and crafts made by former inmates.

Apart from providing space for the former inmates to showcase their creativity and handcrafted products, the showroom also allows the public to take a closer look at the products that are also for sale. The showroom sought to raise public confidence to accept former inmates back into society.

The opening offered employment opportunities for the former inmates and gave them the chance to attain skills from their friend.

Some of the products made by former inmates on display. PHOTOS: RAHWANI ZAHARI
Machetes (parang) made by former inmates
ABOVE & BELOW: Supervision Officer of the Reintegration Section of the Prisons Department Hajah Mardiana binti Haji Muhidin; and some of the products made by former inmates on display

Supervision Officer of the Reintegration Section of the Prisons Department Hajah Mardiana binti Haji Muhidin said the programme is based on volunteers who offered opportunities to former inmates who completed their sentences. Courses include woodcraft, handicraft, dressmaking and cooking.

“Several stakeholders such as the Youth Development Centre (PPB) and Institute of Brunei Technical Education (IBTE) provide training to former inmates under this programme.

“For the woodcraft and metal craft, it will be under the Aftercare Committee that comprise pensioners,” she said.

Hajah Mardiana said the programme started in 2014 provides training and skills courses to former inmates before they were released.

“Through several expos participated by the former inmates in promoting their products, it was quite surprising how they could generate income,” she said.

“We thought on the need for a showroom and workshop to exhibit the former inmates’ products for the public to have more options or request for a custom-made products. The sales belong to them 100 per cent,” she said.

“We only provide the showroom to showcase their products.

“During their time in prison, the inmates will learn all the skills and receive training, and once released they attain more knowledge outside with their own creative work of art. “Within two weeks after their release some former inmates could generate their own income while some opened their own small enterprises.

“There are also some taking advanced courses to further develop their skills such as in dress-making, wood-crafting, cooking and so on.

“The former inmates will be under supervision for six months after being released. “After six months, it is up to them whether they want to continue the programme or not, as they can stand on their own already.”

Speaking on public perception of the former inmates, Hajah Mardiana said the public has given a positive response on the products and goods made by the former inmates. Some were impressed by their products and talents.

“These products like souvenirs can be sold locally, and has the potential for the overseas market,” she said.

The showroom aimed to promote open-mindedness and support for former inmates in re-establishing themselves as entrepreneurs. For Mohd Samrin, the programme gave him the opportunity to expand his own enterprise and generate income for his family. “I learnt how to make machetes (parang) and other metal products that are often in high demand,” he said.

“My brother also shared his knowledge with me on how to enhance my skills in making metal products.” While some of his customers have requested to learn metal crafting from him, he is focussed on meeting the customers’ orders for now.

“Maybe one day if I have enough confidence in sharing my knowledge and skills, then probably I will become a trainer especially in helping our friend,” he added.

The programme can erase the negative stigma. These former inmates will not be seen as a burden, neither in the family nor among community. They will be seen as those who can afford to contribute and be among successful entrepreneurs, provided they are given the opportunity.

It is hoped for cooperation with others in further developing and supporting rehabilitation efforts and reintegration of the former inmates. All agencies must work hand-in-hand with a ‘Whole of Nation’ approach to ensure the success of the Reintegration Programme of the former inmates back in the community.