Hubert Burda Media

The Season for Giving: Lam Bee Lan (2of4)

In the second part of this series, the medical director shares how she helps give inmates a new lease of life.

Helps Inmates Erase The Past

Every four to six weeks, the medical director of Ageless Medical Centre goes to Changi Prison. She’s part of a group of aesthetic physicians who remove tattoos for reformed prisoners who have renounced their gang affiliations and are preparing to return to society. Removing such symbols on exposed parts of the body “signifies that they are severing all ties with their past,” notes Dr Lam Bee Lan. It also makes it less challenging for them to find jobs.

It helped that owners of medical equipment company Gigatt International Marketing placed a high-end laser machine in the prison in 2009. To date, 437 treated inmates have been released; 74 are currently on the programme. The project is part of the prison authorities’ holistic rehabilitation programme. It includes help from counsellors, and industry experts who help develop life skills such as cooking and IT abilities.

Lam and some doctors are also collaborating with the Ministry of Social and Family Development’s upcoming project to remove tattoos for at-risk youths, enabling dropouts to return to school, where ink on skin is not accepted.

On my first visit to prison…the volunteer doctors had a delicious lunch cooked and served by inmates, and were serenaded by a band made up of inmates. I was impressed and touched. I saw how various groups of people were helping to transform their lives and it motivated me to want to do the same. Some inmates were as young as my sons (19- to 21-years-old back then). And as a mother, I would want them to be given another chance, otherwise the young inmates would continue with their old lifestyles and re-offend again.

Tattoo removal is many more times painful than…putting them on. Many big, muscular men tear, wince and perspire profusely as their tattoos are removed. The inmates are friendly, grateful and happy that they can have their tattoos removed at no cost while still in prison.

My five children have volunteered by…giving tuition to the underprivileged kids at Pathlight; planning a project to give out reading glasses to senior citizens living in one-room HDB flats; and serving on medical mission trips.

I only hope that helping others…creates a ripple effect. People who were once given help pay it forward by helping others.