Prison is a taboo topic for Singaporeans, since it usually has unpleasant connotations. Plus, we’re all a little bit pantang (Malay for “superstitious”), so we won’t talk about prisons for fear that we’ll end up in one. Same reason why your parents won’t let you play with toy handcuffs – they’d buy the entire toy police set for you, guns and all, but will throw away the plastic handcuffs.

So here’s a little social studies lesson for you, courtesy of The Popping Post! We learned all about Singapore prisons (despite our pantang nature), and here are some facts that you’d never know if you’ve never been near a prison before.

1. iKiosk

The iKiosk. Credit: meshDETECT

The iKiosk. Credit: meshDETECT

It’s not the latest offering from Apple – rather, the iKiosk stands for Inmate Self-Service Kiosk. It’s an electronic kiosk that allows inmates to perform simple administrative functions themselves, like printing letter forms and checking status requests. Bet you didn’t know that our inmates are so autonomous! Without the iKiosk, inmates would normally have to approach a prison officer to perform these tasks.

It’s such an awesome invention that it was awarded Winner for the Category of Most Innovative Use of Infocomm Technology in 2012.

2. You can video conference with inmates

Video conferencing. Credit: Singapore Prison Service

Video conferencing. Credit: Singapore Prison Service

It’s not quite FaceTime, since you need to be at specific tele-visit centres to video conference with inmates. But it’s the closest you can come to Skyping incarcerated loved ones! If you don’t live in the east (ie, near Changi Prison), this is a godsend because it means you don’t have to travel all the way to the east to talk to the inmates there. You’ve got to book a slot first though – different days are usually reserved for different blocks.

You can even hand items over to the officer to give to the inmate too!

3. The first prisoners arrived in 1825

Prisoners. Credit: RNZ

Prisoners. Credit: RNZ

They arrived on April 18, 1825, and were housed in huts along Bras Basah Canal. Back then, there was no Changi Prison – and it wouldn’t be built for another 111 years! It was only in 1936 that Changi Prison was built. Before that, prisoners were held in temporary huts, or at the Civil Jail at Pearl’s Hill. Back then, they were more interested in punishing inmates, rather than rehabilitating them.

4. The entrance gate, wall, and turrets of Changi Prison have been gazetted as Singapore’s 72nd national monument

The entrance gate and high wall of Changi Prison. Credit: The Straits Times

The entrance gate and high wall of Changi Prison. Credit: The Straits Times

Yes, Changi Prison has turrets! Earlier this year, the National Heritage Board announced that Changi Prison’s external structure would be a national monument. The previous building to be gazetted was the former Fullerton Building last December, while Changi Prison received this honour on February 15. The old Changi Prison was designed by the Public Works Department, completed in 1936, and operational the following year.

5. More than 5,000 prisoners were held in Changi Prison during World War 2

Prisoners-of-war. Credit: RNZ

Prisoners-of-war. Credit: RNZ

Changi Prison and its surrounding barracks became the principal Prisoners-Of-War (POW) camp in Southeast Asia. Some civilian inmates continued to live among the POWs, but the problem was that Changi Prison was designed to hold only 600 prisoners back then. Overcrowding ensued, and malaria and beri beri spread as well. As a result, the POWs had to build attap huts in the prison courtyards and catch sparrows and rats for food.

Apprentice. Credit: Golden Village Cinemas

Apprentice. Credit: Golden Village Cinemas

But prison is not just about being confined. That’s what Apprentice will show you. It’s our very own Singaporean film about a prison officer who ends up becoming the apprentice of the hangman who executed his father. Directed by local talent Boo Junfeng, it’s an extraordinary film that will give you insight into the emotional landscape of those who face the noose – and live to hang another.

Catch Apprentice in cinemas, and get a glimpse into a side of Singapore that’s rarely seen!

 

Credits: meshDETECT, Singapore Prison Service, RNZ, The Straits Times, Golden Village Cinemas