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K Shanmugam: No fans & mattresses inside prison for safety & hygiene reasons

The Independent logo The Independent 6/7/2022 Hana O
© The Independent Singapore

Members of the public had mixed opinions on Minister for Law and Home Affairs K Shanmugam’s statement that mattresses in Singapore prisons are not ideal due to hygiene and security issues.

Many said that imprisonment was not a holiday vacation; hence inmates are not supposed to have luxurious treatment. At the same time, others expressed concern that not showing humanity towards prisoners could mean they don’t act better upon release.

Mr Shanmugam said in Parliament on Monday (Jul 4) that prison cells don’t have fans and mattresses to reduce security risks such as contrabands or suicide.

Questions regarding the prison conditions and rehabilitation arose following a Channel News Asia documentary “Inside Maximum Security”, highlighting the country’s prison living conditions.

Member of Parliament Murali Pillai (PAP – Bukit Batok) asked if prison conditions reflected Singapore Prison Service’s standing as a leading correctional agency. Other MPs also inquired about the support inmates receive towards their mental health or medical conditions.

Singapore’s hot and humid climate makes mattresses in the cells not ideal. Furthermore, fans can’t be installed on cell walls as they could be dismantled and possibly used for weapons or “potential anchor points for suicide,” explained Mr Shanmugam.

Instead, he noted, there is a combination of natural and mechanical ventilation inside the compound. At the same time, inmates are given straw mats to rest on.

Inmates needing extra care have beds at medical wards and correctional units, he added.

“Our assessment is that the conditions are acceptable and fit in with our philosophy of how prisons ought to be,” said Mr Shanmugam, noting that inmates’ “essential needs” are met. At the same time, all prisoners are assessed on their physical and mental health upon admission.

Commenting on his statement, netizens expressed varying opinions on the matter.

“If you committed a crime, you should be punished. That should include physical discomfort. Is discomfort inhumane? No,” noted Facebook user Kathleen Kwan.

One David Chang added that a prison term was not a holiday resort. “If they are so fond of luxurious treatment, then don’t break the law. Period.”

“The purpose of a prison is to discourage people from staying in. It’s not about comfort or welfare. Want comfort, then stay out,” said Facebook user Joe Basara.

Meanwhile, others highlighted a more long-term perspective on the topic.

“If you don’t show humanity and the chance for redemption towards prisoners, how do you expect them to become better people once they get out?” asked Facebook user Stefan Ansorge. /TISG

Photo: FB screengrab © The Independent Singapore Photo: FB screengrab

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