Offering hope beyond prison gates

Second chance: Pakyalakshmi (centre) posing with her students comprising ex-convicts and single mothers at the centre in Jalan Mengkuang. — ZHAFARAN NASIB/The Star

BUKIT MERTAJAM: As someone who manned the phone lines at a police station, she too is a frontliner.

Telephone operator KS Pakyalakshmi Subramanian, who is based at a police station in Bandar Perda here, is bent on reaching out to minor offenders and former convicts to help them pick themselves up again.

She has rented a place in Jalan Mengkuang where workshops, courses and skills training are offered to them.

“There are 178 programmes such as classes in computer skills, cooking, bouquet making, tailoring and social media entrepreneurship, ” she said, adding that there were also courses in electrical, motivational, counselling, mobile phone repairing, airconditioner servicing and more.

The monthly rent of RM400 is paid off by selling products made at the centre, where the classes are taught by volunteers. Some of them are former convicts who picked up skills and stayed on to teach others.

Pakyalakshmi, 37, has been helping these former convicts and offenders for the past eight years.

The centre has managed to help 78 people over the years.

“I want them to have a chance to change their lives for the better. I usually refer them to various technical and vocational institutions, associations and help the young ones find homes that could accept them.

“I also work with prison wardens to review cases of former convicts who want a second chance in life. We also work together to identify young offenders who had committed minor offences.

“If young offenders are caught and taken to prison, we would work out a solution to help them if the crime is not too serious.

“Depending on the seriousness of the case and the type of permission we get, we will help young offenders locate a new home, or a place which accepts them if their family has given up on them, ” she said.

Pakyalakshmi noted that when a young person is caught for minor crimes such as stealing, she and the wardens would try to find out why the youngster did what they did.

“Most of the time, we discover that they are poor and some simply wanted the attention, ” she said.As for adult convicts, she said that these people would be given support by providing them with skills that allow them to earn a living.

Pakyalakshmi said that when she visited some offenders in the lockups, she realised that most of them lacked proper skills, knowledge and values to stay out of trouble.

“At times, we see young convicts who got involved in gangsterism and sexual abuse. This is indeed shocking and sad.

“Many young convicts commit offences because they lack knowledge and proper guidance. They also feel that no one around them supports or loves them. We want to provide them with a support system, ” she said.

These convicts, she said, should not be left to fend for themselves.

“If we don’t help them, nothing will change for them when they get out of prison, ” she said.

Pakyalakshmi, who has worked at the police station for 10 years, said that helping ex-convicts or offenders uplifts the community.

“I will continue to do this as long as I can, ” said Pakyalakshmi, who has two sons, aged 10 and 12.

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