Prisoners get help to go straight
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Prisoners get help to go straight

New scheme gives assistance to ex-convicts to break cycle of reoffending

New programmes for prisoners at the main Kanchanaburi Prison by the Department of Corrections aim at helping released convicts to break the cycle of re-offending. (Photo via
New programmes for prisoners at the main Kanchanaburi Prison by the Department of Corrections aim at helping released convicts to break the cycle of re-offending. (Photo via

Without enough money or work skills, many former inmates are at risk of returning to a life of crime. This has led the Department of Corrections (DOC) to look for more effective ways to end this cycle of incarceration and reoffending.

The DOC, under the Justice Ministry, is setting up a Centre for Assistance to Reintegration and Employment, which will enable prisoners to attend training courses while behind bars to help them find work when they are released.

The scheme will also provide funds to help some prisoners, who show particular aptitude during the courses, start their own businesses.

The centres, which are to be established at all 256 prisons across the country, will also allow officers to keep track of former inmates through a database which will store information about where they are living once they get out.

In Kanchanaburi prison, where a centre was introduced in February, 115 inmates have been helped to find jobs and 11 have received funds to pursue their own businesses.

"Several former inmates have received funds to pursue their careers, particularly those from Kanchanaburi prison," said DOC director-general Naras Savestanan. "Some sell sticky rice with grilled chicken and meatballs and others work as barbers, amulet case makers, noodle vendors and mustard green growers."

"More than 265,000 baht has been allocated to these former prisoners," he said.

Teerapon Yeunyong, a former drugs convict who left Kanchanaburi prison in March after spending seven years behind bars, was granted a 20,000-baht loan by the DOC to buy equipment and tools needed for crafting amulet cases in Thai traditional patterns.

He said this is a zero-interest loan, but he needs to repay monthly instalments of 500 baht.

He said he currently earns 30,000 baht a month on average from crafting amulet frames, which are distributed to Thai Pra Chan, a key location for amulet trade in Bangkok.

Above, A barber's training course prepares inmates for employment after they have served their jail term and been discharged. Below: Inmates learn shop-keeping skills by making drinks for customers at the prison. (Photos by Tawatchai Kemgumnerd)

Mr Teerapon said he also learned how to perform Thai traditional massage at the prison centre and he plans to open a massage shop at home to earn extra income next month.

He said he would repay the debt to ensure others have access to funds to pursue new careers are they complete their sentences.

Wiwat Hengpraphrom, an ex-robbery convict who was freed on July 19 after having been locked up for eight years, received a 25,000-baht grant to start a barber shop in Kanchanaburi's Tha Maka district.

"I learned to cut hair in prison," said Mr Wiwat. "After leaving, I obtained funds to pursue this career. I now earn 30-60 baht per haircut."

He said most of his customers are students and his shop is bustling with people on the weekends.

He recalls life before being jailed when he would usually spend his nights riding motorbikes with friends. However, he has changed his habits: "After closing the shop, I go back home straight away. It is better to be at home.

"Many former prisoners and I were lucky to be given another chance," said Mr Wiwat. "Some former inmates struggle and don't know what to do, so they end up committing the same offences again.

"If we can stay positive and try to turn over a new leaf, things can be better for us."

Meanwhile, another ex-drug convict, Sudarat Yingmee, was granted 25,000 baht to open a new noodle shop.

The woman, who spent one year and 47 days behind bars, had her fund sponsored by Prasert Prasarttong-Osoth, a businessman who jointly supports the scheme.

Ms Sudarat, who ran a noodle shop before being arrested, still insists she had nothing to do with selling drugs.

She said a friend of hers ordered 10 noodle sets for delivery. The friend, meanwhile, said someone would drop some items at her noodle shop and asked her to deliver them with the order, and this subsequently led to her arrest, according to Ms Sudarat.

In the prison, she learned new recipes and business skills.

"From now, I will not carry things for others anymore," Ms Sudarat said.

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