KUALA LUMPUR, July 9 (Bernama) -- Anxiety and happiness writ large on his face, Mahadi was sitting on the edge of his chair, eagerly waiting besides a round table set up for a special occasion that morning.
Eyes glued to the entrance some distance away.
His heart was pounding fast; clearly he appeared emotional about how he would meet his family members, and even more about how they will meet him. It had been some time since he last saw his family.
Minutes later, the wait finally ended. He felt as if his heart had skipped a beat. First, his wife appeared at the entrance, followed by his children, one by one.
As they walked in at the entrance of the prison, the place that had been his home for the last 10 years, Mahdi could feel a flood of emotions surging.
From afar, it seemed his wife, clad in a 'baju kurung,' was smiling, but as she walked closer, he could see the tears in her eyes. The children, too, could not wait to embrace their father.
These were more than hugs â€" Mahadi was clasping his children as if he would never let go. Soon, they proceeded to join the 'Program Jalinan Kasih,' an inmate-family get-together venture organised by the Sungai Buloh Prison to mark the 2013 Prisons Department Family Day.
Held at the prison's Records Office compound, the annual event was conceived with the purpose of fostering closer ties between prisoners and their family members, two sides separated by iron bars and jail sentences.
ENTERTAINED BY CONVICTS
As the event began at 10 am, a total of 31 inmates, including those convicted of rape and robbery but with less than three years left to serve, came face to face with their family members in a cordial atmosphere.
The fine weather added to the joyous mood of the 104 family members of these inmates, all specially invited to the programme. More than ten tables were set up for the event even as prison warders watched closely.
At least for some time, it did not seem like a prison. All the guests were served light snacks and entertained with poetry recitals, dramas, nasyid (religious choir), karaoke and the dikir barat (a type of Malay music and song), all performed by inmates who had clearly prepared well for this event.
Amidst all the music and festivities, you could see men holding their children or playing with their grandchildren on their laps. Everyone wanted to savour every single moment of this precious time. After all, the two sides were to part company after an hour, an hour that they would not forget for the rest of their lives.
BOOSTING THE INMATESâ€™ CONFIDENCE
According to Sungai Buloh Prison Director Narender Singh, such an event not only gives inmates an opportunity to be closer to their families but also helps instil a confidence in them that they would be accepted by their families once they completed their prison term.
Just as it takes a long time for a person to become used to the routine of a jail, it takes considerable psychological skills to prepare one to rejoin normal life after serving oneâ€™s sentence.
For those separated from their families by high walls and iron grills, listening to the happy squeals of a grandchild can be the best preparation to mingle with society once again.
The 'Jalinan Kasih' programme is perceived as one that prepares the prison inmates mentally for their rehabilitation. Besides, it helps convince the inmates that there are rewards to be had if they learnt good manners while in prison.
Narender pointed out that the Malaysian Prison Department organises this programme every year in conjunction with the festive period to allow the prison inmates an opportunity to celebrate the happy occasion with their loved ones.
"The department also conducts other programmes such as spiritual classes, counselling, sports activities etc. This way, inmates can engage in meaningful and beneficial activities during their prison term," he told Bernama.
INMATES WHO QUALIFY FOR THE PROGRAMME
While the programme is optional and no inmate is forced to participate, there are certain prerequisites that qualify any inmate for the programme, Narender said. They have to pass and secure required marks for the orientation phase.
"The inmates should also display a positive behaviour that could serve as a good example, and they should not be facing any disciplinary action," he added.
Narender explained that 389 convicts are currently participating in the programme being held at the Sungai Buloh Prison. These prisoners will be released soon.
Ever since the programme was launched some time back, many positive outcomes have been witnessed, one of them being reduced recidivism.
"The department's Key Performance Index is measured by the extent to which recidivism is reduced. The target is to reduce the factor of any relapse into the world of crime from 20 per cent to eight per cent by 2015," he said.
Meanwhile, Narender added that the participation of family members at programmes organised by the Malaysian Prison Department helps inmates to be a part of society once again.
GRATEFUL FOR SPIRITUAL GUIDANCE
Mahadi Ahmad, 68, has spent 12 years behind bars. If he has any bitterness, he does well to fight it back. For him, the time in prison has been educative, too, as he learnt a very valuable lesson.
Prison term has helped Mahadi repent for a crime he had committed at the age of 57.
Convicted of rape and sentenced to jail for 18 years, Mahadi is now looking forward to life as a free bird. He received partial remission for his sentence and would be released by this year end.
"I'm very thankful because during my prison term, I transformed myself into a better person. Here we are given spiritual guidance, and I will never repeat my past mistakes," said the teary eyed man, referring to the dark chapter in his life.
The support from his family members had given him the faith and the confidence to face prison life. He would like to share the lessons he learnt with his children.
Jamaludin Abd Latiff, 47, was determined to fulfil his responsibilities towards his family upon his release, something he had failed to do previously.
"I was charged with rape, and I began serving my prison term in 2002. It was in jail that I realised I had failed to fulfill my obligations as a family man.
"I will now pay attention to my family and make sure that no one commits the same mistakes," said Jamaludin, who would be released in 2014.
Throughout his stay in the prison, Jamaludin was taught and given guidance to return to the right path.
"I'm grateful because it was in prison that I had the opportunity to conduct activities beneficial to me as well as to the society, and to be closer to God. This also reduced my anxiety about facing the outside world.
"Once I am released, I will resume my business which is currently being run by my wife," added Jamaludin, a father of four, a grandfather of seven and a man of a thousand lessons learnt in prison.
NUA PR INE CR