- By Gangasudhan -
We have heard so much about the Yellow Ribbon Project – how it has roped in a multitude of supporters and businesses to help ex-offenders reintegrate into society. While it is a laudable initiative with many grateful beneficiaries, one might wonder why there is no complementary Yellow Noose Project. Perhaps it is due to the fact that those sent to the gallows do not need to be rehabilitated? But isn't that in direct contradiction to the Rehab, Renew, Restart motto championed by the Singapore Prison Service? Especially for those who are first time offenders but find themselves on the ‘technical hit list’ – drug traffickers who pay the ultimate price for a momentary lapse of judgement.
So why not have a Yellow Noose Project (YNP) that administers compassion much like how the Yellow Ribbon Project does for ex-offenders? The YNP could begin with the President showing clemency to young offenders or to those whose cases have even the slightest mitigating factor. These almost-hanged ex-offenders can then embrace a second chance in life – and it may even be a case of life-altering change as the experience might be akin to a near-death occurrence.
In fact, the chances of re-offending for a first-time drug trafficker is (very) much more unlikely than a petty thief. But in today’s system, the trafficker is given no chance at all whilst the thief may be given one in spite of all evidence suggesting that he will strike again.
The YNP does not need to be any less stringent. By all means, we can let the case be analysed every which way before allowing clemency to be exercised and we can even put the convict through (metaphorical) hell if need be. But the rationale should be to let as many convicts as possible be pardoned at the end of the day – it is actually not a bad thing to be seen as compassionate (contrary to what the Uniquely Singapore model may have you believe).
This is one way to get around the hardline reputation that Singapore has - and, quite frankly, one that our government wants desperately to maintain. The signs proclaiming DEATH BE UNTO YOU do not need to be changed; the official stance of zero tolerance does not need to be rescinded. Instead, it is simply a case of using the existing processes in place to incorporate compassion into the system – something very doable if the government only wishes to.
Of course, from an economic standpoint it is admittedly a costly affair. A convict who serves a prison sentence will eventually have to be released back into society so it is in the government’s interest to ensure that he or she does not return to crime. And the contrary is true for those sent to the gallows – the sooner the convict is hanged, the lesser the overall cost to the state.
But life cannot be justified using economics so the Uniquely Singapore model simply has to change when it comes to killing people. Perhaps, in the grand scheme of things, the quality of life can be traded for economic well-being and wealth, but certainly not its existence. And with today’s modern Singaporean valuing the sanctity of life over materialism, it might be the best time as ever for the government to initiate the Yellow Noose Project and win over (some of) the electorate.