Singapore—The Singapore Prison Service is being asked to allow a prisoner on death row to receive letters written by members of the public.
Syed Suhail bin Syed Zin, on death row, had not received any of the letters written to him by various individuals, said theTransformative Justice Collective in a statement posted on Facebook on Thursday (Apr 22).
The group seeks the reform of the country’s criminal justice system. It launched a #DearSyed letter-writing campaign in March to reach out to Syed Suhail.
A drug trafficking convict, Syed Suhail made the news last year after his scheduled execution was halted.
“Syed was sentenced to death for drug offences in December 2015. He was scheduled to hang in September 2020, but his execution has been stayed pending applications in court.
“While Syed awaits further news, much of his hope is tied to the love and support he receives from family members, friends, and concerned citizens. We invite you to join us in writing letters to Syed, and to give him some hope and comfort for yet another day,” wrote the group in a March 5 Facebook post.
Some 20 letters had been written to the inmate, said the Transformative Justice Collective, a number of which had been posted directly to Syed Suhail.
But by April 3, he had yet to receive any of them, even the ones that were mailed early last month.
Transformative Justice Collective wrote, “We have since come to understand that about six letters have been rejected by the prison authorities; according to Syed, it was because prison management did not know who the letter-writers were, and claimed that there were security issues.”
Some of the letters had already been published on the group’s website, which included “poems, drawings, descriptions of birds, and messages from children.”
“While they were written by members of the public, we do not think this is sufficient reason for the authorities to withhold these letters from Syed,” Transformative Justice Collective added in its post.
The lives of death row inmates are very lonely and isolated, and knowing that the day set for their execution is coming causes anxiety and stress.
Therefore, the group believes such inmates should not be kept from contact with others.
The power of prison authorities should be “exercised judiciously, and should not be used as a reason to withhold correspondence without clear justification,” it added.
And since there have been instances when correspondence from inmates has been forwarded to the Attorney-General’s Chambers, the group said it was “incredibly unfair that the prison has so much discretion to copy and forward letters without consent, while also withholding other correspondence from inmates”.
Transformative Justice Collective appealed to the Singapore Prison Service to allow the letters written to Syed Suhail, “full of goodwill and harmless expressions of best wishes”, to reach him as soon as possible.
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