Caption: Mr Quentin Lee became interested in joining SPS after taking up a correctional psychology module at NUS.
Quentin Lee, a Senior Psychologist with Singapore Prison Service (SPS), relies on technology and a keenness to make a difference in the inmates’ lives.
The peak of the Covid-19 pandemic last year presented an unexpected challenge for Quentin and his team. To ensure that both staff and inmates were protected from Covid-19, strict measures were enforced at Prisons facilities including movement restrictions into and within facilities, segregation of newly admitted inmates and mandatory testing of both inmates and staff.
The 34-year-old recalls: “We were trying to figure out how we could continue our work with the inmates so that their rehabilitation would not be severely disrupted.”
For example, they wanted to ensure inmates would be able to complete their necessary rehabilitation programmes before their release, without face-to-face sessions. The solution? Pre-recorded videos filled with engaging elements
were produced for inmates to view at a later time.
Thankfully, leveraging technology is nothing new at SPS, which is part of the Ministry of Home Affairs. In 2017, Quentin helped to develop the first psychology-based e-learning programme for inmates. He also contributed to the development of other online platforms for e-learning, surveys and even journalling applications.
He says: “As there are now fewer hard-copy materials in prison cells, prison officers can conduct more efficient cell searches. Inmates also have greater access to relevant self-directed learning content so that their time in prison could be spent more purposefully.”
Meaningful work with a strong impact
Quentin, a National University of Singapore psychology major, became interested in joining SPS after taking up
a correctional psychology module.
He says: “It was taught by a lecturer who had worked in SPS for several years. The course was a window into the important work that psychologists did — using evidence-informed approaches to assess and rehabilitate offenders — and the real-life impact this has on society.”
In 2013, he joined SPS’s Psychological and Correctional Rehabilitation Division, where he works with adult offenders who were incarcerated for violent and sexual offences. He assesses their intervention needs and risk for re-offending, and conducts psychology-based correctional programmes. Quentin also drafts pre-sentencing reports as well as conducts research and evaluation studies.
He shares: “I see the direct impact of my work in shaping the lives of inmates, so that they can spend the best years of their lives in the community having rewarding relationships with their families and making contributions to society.”
To support Quentin’s efforts, SPS sends him for training courses and even overseas for research conferences to keep up-to-date with knowledge in the psychology field. Quentin was also awarded a scholarship to pursue a master’s degree in Forensic Psychology and Mental Health at the University of Manchester in 2019.
Beyond his day-to-day tasks, Quentin is passionate about shaping SPS’s culture through new routines, engagement and coaching, so that inmates will see prison officers as allies instead of enforcers of discipline, and thus allow more opportunities for rehabilitation.
Recently, he and a team engaged ActiveSG volunteers to run sport and art programmes for inmates — an effort to foster a more pro-social lifestyle for inmates after their release. He also works with inmates’ family members, as family and community support are most critical for inmates’ reintegration into society.
These efforts have paid off and have left an impact on some of these former inmates. Says Quentin: “What gives me joy is receiving cards and letters from inmates as well as offenders who have been released into the community.”