Missing his mum's funeral a wake-up call for ex-convict, Latest Singapore News - The New Paper

Missing his mum's funeral a wake-up call for ex-convict

Mr Chen Zhi Zhong, 69, has spent more than half of his adult life getting in and out of jail – more than 10 times within 28 years.

He started taking drugs when he mixed with bad company while doing his national service.

But when he was in jail about 20 years ago, his 80-year-old mother died and he did not attend her wake and funeral.

"It was only three months before my release when I suddenly received news of my mother's death. I was devastated," he told Lianhe Zaobao.

Mr Chen shared that his brother wanted to seek permission for Mr Chen to attend their mother's funeral but he was too ashamed to send his mother off while in handcuffs.

The regret weighed heavily on Mr Chen, who then decided to turn over a new leaf.

After his release in 2005, Mr Chen found a job under the Industrial and Services Co-operative Society (Iscos), which is under the purview of the Ministry of Home Affairs.

The guidance and support made Mr Chen realise the importance of support for inmates to help them get back on the right path.

For eight years now, he has been mentoring inmates and helping to motivate them.

"They lack confidence just like I did back then. I encourage and remind them to believe in themselves," said Mr Chen.

"I was addicted to drugs for more than 20 years yet I could change. There is no reason why they can't.

"I also assure them that I will guide them on how to overcome difficulties after their release from prison."