Singapore Prison Service to rename newsletter after online criticism
It is a word that means a prison with cells arranged in a circle to facilitate unobstructed views, and it is also associated with oppression and mind control.
Panopticon is also the name of the Singapore Prison Service (SPS) newsletter.
The name of the quarterly newsletter has drawn criticism after it was made available to the public on the SPS corporate website in July.
Replying to queries from The New Paper recently, an SPS spokesman said that the newsletter has been called Panopticon since 2009 and it serves as an internal communications tool to inform, educate and engage officers.
She said the SPS intends to conduct an internal review and rename the publication.
"The panopticon refers to a prison infrastructure and management design that allow inmates to be effectively and efficiently supervised.
"The features of the panopticon are seen in many modern prisons today, and the name is consistent with SPS' mission to ensure the secure custody of offenders, while at the same time rehabilitating them," said the spokesman, who added that the SPS was aware of the feedback from the public.
"We appreciate the feedback received and understand that the term could be misconstrued, and convey an unintended and wrong imagery.
"We will conduct an internal review of the name of the newsletter, to replace it with a more appropriate name."
Last week, screenshots of the July issue of the newsletter's contents page were shared on Facebook more than 500 times, with many netizens expressing their disbelief.
The panopticon is a prison design conceptualised by social theorist Jeremy Bentham in the 18th century and was envisioned to be circular with a guard post in the centre, allowing one guard to view all the cells.
Speaking to The New Paper, sociologist Tan Ern Ser explained that in academic discourse, the concept of the panopticon is associated with oppression, mind control and submission to power.
"The committee that recommended this term as a title probably thought it makes for a catchy title which also captures the notion of efficiency and effectiveness, without realising that it is associated with negative consequences for the human condition," he said. "It can be misconstrued as endorsing total oppression and control."
He added that while such an endorsement was likely unintended, it would be best not to use the term if it could be easily misconstrued.