Most PBSL candidates have fared well as employees

PETALING JAYA: A large majority of light and first-time offenders who were freed early from jail under the Prisons Department’s Licensed Release of Prisoners (PBSL) programme have fared well as employees at various sectors nationwide.

Former Prisons Department deputy director of security and intelligence Anathurai Kalimuthu (pic) said that apart from being hired at plantations, factories and multinational companies, the PBSL candidates were also employed at smaller businesses such as car wash centres.

“The programme has helped them put the remaining time of their imprisonment to good use and turned their lives around. In fact, they are in high demand especially by the manufacturing industry as most of them proved to be hardworking and reliable.

“The number of recidivists in the programme is very minimal or less than 2%,” said the ex-senior prisons officer who retired from the department four months ago.

Anathurai said about 1,000 prisoners were released back into society each month under the PBSL programme which was mooted by Prisons Department director-general Datuk Nordin Muhamad back in 2020 to address overcrowding of prison cells nationwide especially during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.

He said the programme was in line with laws in the Prisons Act that allowed such early release of prisoners.

Anathurai said while the PBSL programme might appear to be similar to the parole system, it was managed by the Prisons Department director-general unlike the latter which is managed by the Home Ministry.

He said candidates of the programme were first-time offenders who are undergoing a sentence of under three years and had completed at least a third of their jail time.

“They will complete the remaining two-thirds of their sentence under the programme before achieving full freedom.

“As long as they are employed and are provided with accommodation, they can be hired even by their own family members who operate businesses,” Anathurai told The Star in an interview.

He said that apart from overcoming the overcrowding at prisons, the programme also helped candidates assimilate with society again and turn over a new leaf.

Anathurai, who takes a keen interest in the rehabilitation of newly-released convicts, spends most of his days in retirement instilling good moral values and assisting such individuals cope with the challenges they may face when returning to society.

With the help of non-governmental organisation Pertubuhan Penganut Vethathiri SKY Manavalakalai Malaysia in Seremban and funding by the group’s president, businessman Arumugam Balakrishnan, he said a three-storey building was acquired and after it is officially launched on May 1 this year, it will be utilised as a halfway home for ex-convicts.

Anathurai said there were about 10 newly-freed inmates who showed interest and signed up for the programme.

“The programmes at the halfway home will be conducted in Bahasa Malaysia and it is open to all Malaysians regardless of race and religion. The inmates will be provided with accommodation and free food.

“They will spend the first six months of their freedom at the centre where they will receive guidance such as to how to cope with their daily lives and anger management.

“They will also learn vocational skills to help them secure jobs. Everyone deserves a second chance and we will guide them on how to move on as good citizens despite having a tainted past,” he said.

By 2030, the Prisons Department expects to see at least 60% of convicts serving their remaining sentence in regular society either under the parole system or programmes such as the PBSL under the watchful eyes of the authorities.

Records of recent years showed the department received about 190,000 new inmates annually but prison cells nationwide only have the capacity to house a third of the number.

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