A SERIAL CONVICT’S
ROAD TO REDEMPTION
What do you do when your sister tries to kill herself – because you weren’t there when she needed you?
What do you do when your father finally gives up on you – because you blew chance after chance?
For 28-year-old Imran, the answer is clear and the motivation rock-solid:
Change - after a life of crime escalating from petty theft to gang involvement to a recurring drug habit.
Change - out of a downward spiral from boys’ home to detention barracks to 5 jail terms in 12 years.
It won’t be easy.
As he starts his latest jail term, the future seems bleak. A recurring thought:
"What’s the point of living?"
There is a limited time Imran can spend outside his cell.
But every month, he is allowed 3 phone calls, each lasting 10 minutes.
10 precious minutes to connect with the most important people in his life - family.
The thought of losing his loved ones starts to jolt Imran into realisation.
What happens next, however, brings him terrifyingly near to real, devastating grief.
“My little sister, they found her in a canal, legs smashed, substances in her urine and blood.
She was lucky to survive.
But she had been writing to me, saying she was lost without me.
I should have been there to save her … I felt like a failure as a brother.
That’s when I decided:
It’s time to step up as a brother and son.”
In the last few months before he walks free, Imran is placed in Changi prison’s Pre-Release Centre.
Here, he prepares for life outside by undergoing therapy, training to be a cook and more.
But his big dream is to be a professional mural artist with his own studio.
This took shape when the former tattooist was introduced to the prison’s Visual Arts Hub.
He is now building his portfolio to apply for a diploma scholarship under the Singapore Art Museum.
Inspired by his younger siblings and cousins, this character portrays the positive energy of one’s inner child. It also represents freedom - not from prison, says Imran, but of the kind where one can "feel down, but still look on the bright side of life".
"THROUGH MY EYES"
This depicts Imran’s family witnessing his arrest, and him wiping up their tears using letters exchanged while in prison. Those notes kept him on track then and Imran now hopes this piece will be a constant reminder to stay the course.
One of his earliest illustrations is an ode to the simple, burning desire to be born again – out of the ashes and into new life.
Imran is ready.
With gang ties renounced, family fissures healed and sister in recovery, he is optimistic.
"This is the very first time I’m feeling totally different compared to previous sentences."
"I’m looking forward to starting a new life awaiting me out there."
The month following Imran’s release is marked by ups and downs, with much more of the latter.
Most significantly, he loses his full-time job as a cook.
But even as he struggles to reintegrate into society, he remains grateful to be surrounded by loved ones who keep him going - and away from his old ways.
"They remind me of my purpose. I cannot let myself down. I’m not going back to prison."
Interactive coder: Calvin Chia
Journalist: Justin Ong
Visual journalist: Gaya Chandramohan
Illustrations, 360 video effects and layout: Kenneth Choy
Videos: Gaya Chandramohan and Howard Law
Editors: David Bottomley, Chung Lyn-Yi, Dawn Teo