MITRA PROGRAMME

What is the HC Mitra Programme?

 

The word “Mitra” means friend in Sanskrit. A true friend is a positive influence in one’s life, he is honest, open and encouraging. The objectives of the Mitra programme are for trained Hindu Centre volunteers to act as friends to offenders to:

  1. share the teachings of Hinduism, its ethical values and spiritual practices to change thinking and behaviour of youth and adult offenders( the Mitras) to support their rehabilitation and address reoffending;   
  2. promote the strengthening of family ties and bonds between offenders (Mitras)  and their loved ones during incarceration and after release; and
  3. befriend and provide aftercare support to Mitras post release

 

Watch a Youtube video on the Hindu Centre Mitra programme


The Mitra penal programme started in 2006 when the Singapore Prison Service and SAF welcomed volunteers trained by the Hindu Centre to visit offenders and detainees as counsellors to share Faith based teachings and ethical values. 

 

Today the largest number of volunteers for the Prison Service’s volunteer Hindu Religious counselling programme is provided by the Hindu Centre.

 

Currently Hindu Centre volunteers (Mitra counsellors) serve on a weekly basis to visit about 200 Mitras housed at the following institutions:

  1. Changi Prison Complex, Institution A (Clusters A1,A2 and A4) and Institution B (Cluster B3 and B4);
  2. Singapore Prison School (Tanah Merah Prison) and Admiralty West Prison (Cluster C);
  3. SAF Detention Barracks
  4. Singapore Boys’ Home
  5. Singapore Girls’ Home
  6. The Ashram-drug half way house run by Hindu Endowments Board

How do Mitra volunteers serve?

Mitra counsellors serve in teams of 2 to 7 members headed by a team coordinator. A Mitra session follows a Mitra lesson template designed by the Hindu Centre to ensure at each session there are the teachings of Hinduism, its ethical values and spiritual practices to address thinking and behavior of the Mitras to aid in their rehabilitation. A session can be an hour to 2 hours depending on the time slot allocated by an institution for volunteer religious counseling sessions.

 

Training for Mitra volunteers  
Mitra counsellors are chosen for training after an interview process. They must attend and complete 16 week training programme designed by the Hindu Centre which is provided free of costs The training programme offers volunteers an opportunity to learn Hindu religious knowledge, spiritual practices, understand the Mitra pedagogy on how the Hindu faith is used as a tool to support offender rehabilitation, learn the skill of Mitra lesson planning, helping skills and understand secular theories used in offender rehabilitation.

 

After training, chosen volunteers are deployed to serve on a weekly basis. They agree to abide by a written code of ethics and values for Mitra counsellors. The 9th batch of trainees, completed their training in August 2014.

 

Management of the Mitra Penal Programme
A Mitra Committee appointed by the Management Committee of Hindu Centre oversees the day to day management of this programme and liaises with external agencies such as the Ministry of Community Development, Singapore Prison Service, Hindu Endowments Board and SAF. A full time staff of the Hindu Centre provides secretarial support for the programme.

 

Youth programme
The Hindu Centre started in 2012 to pilot with the Ministry of Family and Social Development (MSF) to conduct a 6 month weekly programme to help selected high risk Hindu boys on probation. This tailor made programme developed by the Hindu Centre is called Project Chakra. The second Project Chakra programme with MSF begun in July 2014 and will continue for the next 6 months.

 

Anti- drug addiction programme
In May 2014 a pilot tailor made 12 weeks programme for Hindu residents at the drug half way house run by the Hindu Endowments Board, Ashram was begun to support the residents stay drug free .This programme was developed to complement the weekly Hindu counselling sessions for the residents.


Family programme
Family is a key pillar of support for the rehabilitation of an offender. The Mitra family programme brings together family members and Mitras to understand and commit to carrying out their familial duties as understood in the Hindu Faith. The programme undertaken at Prison is called “Nava Bandhana” which means refreshing bonds.


Aftercare programme-Befrienders 

In 2012, Hindu Centre was invited to pilot a religious befriender programme for high risk drug offenders at Changi Prison Cluster B4.Under this programme apart from providing 10 months of religious counseling in Prison, the Mitra counsellors befriend a Mitra 6 months post release to support his reintegration back to Society and support his desire to remain sober and/or crime free.


Funding for the HC Mitra programme

The Mitra programme and its activities are funded by donations and the Hindu Centre. Volunteers receive no allowance for transport or meals and give of their time on a gratis basis. Currently there are 70 volunteer counsellors.

Mitra Programme