“Choose your friends wisely, avoid drugs”, an ex-prisoner advises

KOTA KINABALU, June 13: “Be careful in choosing (your) friends and stay away from drugs,” says an elderly former prison inmate.

Sofea (not her real name), 65, who was chosen as the first person to be placed under house arrest under the Licensed Prisoner Release (OBB) programme in Sabah today, shared her advice out of sadness after seeing many young people imprisoned due to wrong choices in life, especially in choosing friends and getting involved in drugs.

The retired civil servant with 33 years of work experience also wants society to learn from her mistake of being trapped into becoming an ‘account mule’ for a “friend”, who asked to use her bank account for financial transactions.

“I accepted my fate and was not sad to be imprisoned because, for me, this is God’s will, but I am sad to see young people in prison. In my block, out of 22 people, only four were involved in other crimes while the rest were drug-related offences.

“Some of them got involved in drugs through friends. They picked the wrong friends, who placed drugs in their bags,” she said when met by reporters after the Licensed Release of Prisoners (PBSL) ‘Ihsan Madani – Kepulangan Yang Dinanti’ programme in conjunction with Aidiladha 2024, officiated by the Sabah and Labuan Prisons director Nora Musa at the Kota Kinabalu Central Prison here, today.

A total of 196 people were released under the programme in Sabah, with 64 of them from the Kota Kinabalu prison. Sofea is the only house arrest OBB candidate, who was supposed to complete her one-year prison sentence in November.

Sofea said her condition as a chronic diabetic, requiring insulin injections four times a day, along with her good behaviour, qualified her for house arrest.

“The treatment I received here (in prison) was very good. Besides religious and academic guidance, there were also marching lessons. I am very grateful and appreciate the advice given by the prison officers. For some, being in prison may be sad, but I was happy,” she said.

Meanwhile, Nora said the PBSL programme played an important role in the Prison Department’s efforts to rehabilitate parolees within the community. The community-based rehabilitation mechanism has a higher success rate compared to conventional rehabilitation.

She said those undergoing community-based rehabilitation have a very low recidivism rate of 0.24 per cent, compared to 17 per cent for those who do not have the opportunity to undergo community-based rehabilitation.

Meanwhile, in MARANG, Terengganu, 118 inmates from various prisons in Terengganu, released on licence today, hope for unconditional acceptance from their families and society.

Ali (not his real name), 29, expressed his nervousness about facing society again but was grateful to be released, and urged society to accept former prisoners wholeheartedly and give them a chance to continue their lives.

He was met by reporters after his release through the PBSL Ihsan Madani – Kepulangan Yang Dinanti programme at the Marang Prison.

Ali, who began his sentence last August for a drug offence and was expected to be released next March, is grateful for the job offered to him at a car wash in Kuala Terengganu.

He says he is determined to seize this opportunity to change his fate and serve his family.

Ahmad (not his real name), 35, a disabled prisoner without a left leg, plans to seek assistance for a prosthetic leg to venture into cattle farming and turn his life around.

Terengganu Prisons director Hamid Taha said the state had the highest number of prisoners released on licence, with 118 of the 882 prisoners nationwide involved in PBSL today. He noted that 1,500 prisoners have been released on licence since the programme’s inception, with only five reoffending.