S’porean left banking to become prison officer, guides inmates to becoming better members of society

Captain of Lives, indeed.

| Candice Cai | Sponsored | December 18, 2023, 05:48 PM

While being a personal banker may sound like a dream job to many, Muhamad Fadhli quit his job as one after several months to be a Prison Officer.

Before being a banker, he had been a financial consultant for several years.

Why the switch?

Fadhli, 34, shared that although being in financial services was “quite fun for a while” and he had great flexibility of time, the pressure of the sales-based job eventually took its toll on him.

Every morning, Fadhli worried about how to earn his keep or face the thought of having to “eat grass” the next month.

That’s when he made the decision to look for a more stable employment.

He eventually found his calling as a Prison Officer and swiftly left the industry when he was accepted in 2019.

To Fadhil, the mid-career switch was not a step down but more of a course correction.

After all, he’d originally intended to join the uniformed services after graduating from Nanyang Technological University but ended up not doing so due to various factors.

Part of what attracted him to SPS was the job stability as well as clear career progression path.

Photo courtesy of Singapore Prison Service.

He also felt that he was better-suited to the structured nature of the uniformed services and its straight-forward working style.

Another compelling reason for the career switch was the opportunity to make a difference.

When he was a financial consultant, Fadhli often encountered clients from lower income groups who struggled to make ends meet and he knew that helping them to plan their finances simply wasn’t good enough.

There were more complex issues that remained to be tackled and he sought a career that can offer more complete assistance and support.

Citing that he wanted to do more to help those who really needed it, he was drawn to how Prison Officers could make a meaningful impact to offenders and their families.

Overcoming initial challenges

Fadhli doesn’t deny that there were some challenges when he first joined the service as a Captain of Lives (COL).

One of these challenges was regaining his physical fitness — something he did not have to concern himself with as a financial consultant.

Being one of the oldest in his training cohort, he felt the pressure to keep up with his cohort mates who were much younger.

But that did not stop Fadhli as he saw it as an opportunity to push himself further.

His strong bonds with his cohort mates as well as support from his trainers had also assisted him along the way.

Another obstacle he had to overcome was the initial anxiety of having to stand in front of a few hundred inmates every day and be in full command of control of the Correctional Unit, something he got used to eventually.

A typical shift lasts seven to 12 hours and Fadhli spends his time ensuring the safe and secure custody of prison, while also engaging the inmates in meaningful conversations around their families and reintegration plans.

Fadhli takes most pride seeing inmates reflect on what he had shared and applying them to their thinking or behaviour.

Photo courtesy of Singapore Prison Service.

Fadhli admitted that prior to joining the service, his idea of a prison was that of a tough place where hardened criminals go to serve their time.

However, he soon found his initial impressions to be false.

"These inmates are not subjected to any form of harsh treatment or additional punishment beyond serving their sentence," he shared.

“Because I’m not a muscle man”

As he worked, Fadhli was able to put his listening skills, honed during his time as a financial consultant, to good use as he offered a listening ear to the inmates.

He found his job as a COL to be more meaningful than his previous profession.

His acquired soft skill of verbal persuasion also became his first line of defence when de-escalating potentially tense situations in the prisons.

Photo courtesy of Singapore Prison Service.

Why? “Because I’m not a muscle man,” he joked.

Fadhli said when he wanted to join the service, some people joked and said that the job would be one that is rather mundane and involved routine duties such as opening cell doors for inmates and escorting them.

However, this was not true as many of the routine tasks have been automated.

In his capacity as a Correctional Unit Officer, Fadhli has many opportunities to interact with inmates and manage their emotions and issues.

As some inmates may turn to violence as a means of sorting out their problems, Fadhli would prompt them to think of a better solution.

In fact, it was the unique opportunity of engaging with inmates directly and being able to guide them towards becoming better members of society that brought high job satisfaction and inspiration for Fadhli.

“It's really a different kind of impact that one cannot get out of other professions.”

Unexpected aspects of the job

To Fadhli, one of the unexpected aspects of the job is being able to develop new competencies in the different departments of SPS as all Correctional Unit Officers have to undergo job rotation after the initial two- to three-year foundational posting in the prisons.

Fadhli, who professes that he is not tech-savvy, has indicated his interest to be posted to the Transformation & Technology Department (T&TD) which oversees all the technology-related projects at SPS.

Photo courtesy of Singapore Prison Service.

As an officer in T&TD, Fadhli manages tech projects that enhances ground operations and ensures that the projects meet the requirements for prison and help officers on the ground.

“I act as a bridge between the officers and the Home Team Science and Technology Agency (HTX) team that is developing the project, and I am happy to have the opportunity to upskill and be informed of emerging technology in the correctional setting with the vendors,” he shared.

Fadhli also values the fact that in his current posting, he has more time for his family and hobbies - something he struggled with as a financial consultant.

“When I was a financial consultant, I spent most of my weekday nights and also weekends with clients rather than with my wife,” said Fadhli, adding that he had to miss many family gatherings as well.

When asked whether the job as a Prison Officer is dangerous, Fadhli maintains that Singapore prisons are safe and secure, and all Prison Officers undergo rigorous training to prepare them for contingencies.

Prison Officers also work in a team, and he always feels well supported by his colleagues.

Photo courtesy of Singapore Prison Service.

He added that most of the infractions that he encountered were due to arguments among inmates and not against the authority.

“Because [the inmates] know that we are there to take care of them and we show one another mutual respect.”

Meeting ex-inmates on the streets

When asked if he felt that he had personally made an impact on any current or former inmate, Fadhli demurred.

“I cannot say that I’ve made a difference in their lives, because they’ve never told me also,” he joked, before confiding that although some of them might be seen as “society’s unwanted”, Fadhli felt it is his duty to let them know that there’s more to life than what they’re presently going through.

But he takes heart that whenever he encounters ex-inmates who recognise him on the streets, they take the initiative to say hello.

“Most of them will approach me, which to me means that they don't hold any resentment and are thankful that we took care of them when they are in the system.”

His fervent hope is that he doesn’t see any of these ex-inmates reoffend.

For Fadhli, what gives him the most fulfilment is seeing them stay offence-free and enjoying their lives on the outside, contributing to society as useful citizens.

Find out more about career opportunities with Singapore Prison Service here.

This sponsored article is brought to you by Singapore Prison Service.

Cover photo courtesy of Singapore Prison Service.