Samy’s Story

“After I said I was suicidal, they cuffed my other wrist.”

Samy tells us about his trauma and experiences: going from prison to court, living with no windows and in isolation, seeking urgent medical attention, and how psychiatry is dealt with in Singapore’s prison system. 

The charges

It was self-defence but in the end the guy got injured quite badly. So I hired a lawyer to fight this case for a year, to lower the charge. But I came to realise that it doesn’t matter if I got the charge lowered or not – I’d still end up sitting in prison for the same sentence.

It’s sickening to go to prison from court. If you are going to court early in the morning, you have to wait almost the entire day until about five, then they will transport everyone from the court lock-up to the prison. That’s the torturous part. It’s like you go there, you suffer the cold, you wait so long and it makes you want to plead guilty and just never come back again.

After one year [of remand], when I was sentenced and I went to prison, I talked to some old uncles and they told me that I should not have wasted my time fighting the case. The amount of time I used to fight my case, I could have served my sentence faster and earlier, and have got it over and done with. Because I was below 21. Whether I fought the case or not, whether I managed to lower the charge or not, I would still have ended up in the Reformative Training Centre (RTC).

In Reformatory Training Centre (RTC)

The RTC routine is actually pretty much the same as prison. There was a period of time where there was a lockdown [because of fights] when no one came out of their cells for yard time or day room for almost two months. When fights happen, sometimes, the whole entire block will be locked down, and it does not matter whether or not you were involved in the fight.

After 10pm, there is no water in RTC, unlike in the other clusters. And sometimes in the middle of night, if I’m feeling hot and sweaty, I’d just take a quick shower, but then I’d be scolded for it. I got scolded twice in my experience. I don’t understand why they do water rationing. It was very erratic, just for a couple of hours, but I experienced some cuts to the water supply too. 

Isolation and confinement

Sometimes I would read my book – the same book over and over again – for no reason, just to pass the time. Eat, sleep, exercise a lot. You just don’t know what’s happening at times. I just felt like I’m going along with whatever. If I’m told to strip, I will strip, if I’m told to go to cell, I will go to cell. You just shut yourself off, you know? 

When I was admitted to the psychiatric ward [because I wasn’t eating], they cuffed me on one wrist. I was lost, I couldn’t understand. And then honestly after like two or three days, I really felt quite suicidal by then. Like, I don’t know what’s going on, I don’t even know if it was day or night because there was no window. No window and lights on 24/7.

It was sometimes cold, sometimes hot. Then there was a button for you to press if you need help. But I rang the bell, there’s no response, no nothing. When the psychiatrist finally came to see me, I admitted I was feeling suicidal, only for them to put more handcuffs on me. Before that they only cuffed one wrist. After I said I was suicidal, they cuffed my other wrist.


The experience of studying in prison and outside prison is way different, because you have no freedom, you have nothing to do, you have nothing to worry about, you have no responsibilities. 90% of the class passed. Literally, they did so well, you know? Yeah. I mean, this is a good environment to study in. But you also have that small group of people who don’t want to study, they just want to go and pass the time and get out of the cell, so they just play around and create trouble.

After breakfast – 30 or 45 minutes – we’ll leave the cell, go to class, and study. Then, every two weeks, we will go to the library to borrow five books to read, then we get homework, and we get our stationery.

But, of course it’s controlled. You know, the type of pen they give you, they make sure it is not the kind that you can turn into a weapon.

Help and care

I had an eye infection but was only given eye drops, the doctor just said it was a normal sty. I had to see the doctor five times before they sent me to Changi Hospital, and by then, my eyes were bleeding. The whole process took over two months. 

Intimidation and racism

The officers can be nice, they can be biased, they can be racist. What I understand is that there are situations where the inmates are segregated by race in the cell, and Indians cannot mix with either one. They also segregate by gang.

Prison guards, they favour more of their own kind. Chinese help Chinese, Malay help Malay, like that. 

But the most common thing also is that they will swing their baton around to show that they’re more superior like that. That happens a lot. And I don’t know if they’re allowed to do that or not. But I feel like it shouldn’t be that way. Sometimes they will use the baton to hit the door and kacau you.


It really affects the way I think, like, over small things, like I’ll get angry and question people and stuff like that. I find myself getting more irritated and angry more easily. 

But what really affected me was how I socialise. I used to be outgoing, making new friends, but now I’m very introverted. I prefer to be in my own shell, I try to be as anonymous as I can. I prefer to just have a small group of friends.

I still hold a lot of grudges, it’s like if there was any legal way to handle this situation, I will do it. But being in Singapore, not a lot of people know much about the law. it’s really stupid how people who know so much take advantage of those who don’t.

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