Activist Jolovan Wham proposes for prison authorities to implement staggered yard time for all inmates amid COVID-19 pandemic

Activist Jolovan Wham proposes for prison authorities to implement staggered yard time for all inmates amid COVID-19 pandemic

Singapore human right activist Jolovan Wham on Friday morning (21 Aug) shared a letter on his Facebook page in which he asked prison authorities to consider arranging for staggered yard time for all inmates amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mr Wham said that he wrote this letter to the Commissioner of Prisons, Desmond Chin while he was preparing for his upcoming sentence.

Earlier, it was reported that Mr Wham will serve a 10-days prison sentence from 21 Aug for organising a public assembly without a permit under the Public Order Act (Cap 257A, 2012 Rev Ed) and would be paying a fine of $1,200 for refusing to sign the police statement under section 180 of the Penal Code (Cap 224, 2008 Rev Ed).

In the letter shared on his Facebook page, Mr Wham revealed that he was “confined to the cell for the entire duration of his sentence” when he was an inmate at Changi prison in April this year for a different charge of criticising the judiciary.

He explained that due to the COVID-19, yard time, which is ordinarily granted to inmates, was removed in an effort to contain virus transmission.

“Being confined for 24 hours in a small cell is quite inhumane. I am wondering [if] it would be possible for the prison authorities to arrange staggered yard time for all inmates, while observing safe distancing,” Mr Wham said.

During the time he was in the prison, he had also raised this matter to the prison authorities, but was told by that “it was not possible” to have yard time that is safe for everyone.

“Confining people for two weeks is cruel. Even if yard time was not permitted, even the opportunity to sit outside the cell and look at something else other than the 4 walls of the cell is a welcome relief,” he noted.

As he expected to serve prison time again “for another offence”, Mr Wham urged the authorities to look into this matter.

“I expect to be sentenced soon for another offence and will be serving time in prison once again. I would appreciate it if the prison authorities could look into this matter. Thank you for your time,” he said.

Meanwhile, lawyer and former ISA detainee Teo Soh Lung, who shared Mr Wham’s post on her Facebook page, also described how she was “being cruelly and inhumanely treated in ISD prison”.

“In addition to not having yard time, in the initial period there were plenty of mosquitoes despite the 24 hour fluorescent lighting within a small confined space with slits for ventilation,” Ms Teo wrote on her post.

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