KAJANG: For 23 years “Alex” has been in prison after being convicted, while still a teenager, of killing his employer in a fit of anger.
But his detention never once shackled his desire to turn over a new leaf nor did it curtail his ambitions.
Now 37, “Alex” (not his real name) is expected to complete a doctorate in business administration next year. He is hard at work on his PhD thesis, which is on a theme that he is more than familiar with: “the entrepreneurial intention among inmates”.
A doctorate would likely be Alex’s crowning glory, having passed the SPM examination, and acquiring a diploma, and bachelor’s and master’s degrees, all while serving his time.
As a minor, Alex was not sentenced to a jail term but ordered to be detained at the pleasure of the Sultan of Selangor (the state where the offence took place). Adults convicted of murder could be sentenced to life imprisonment or to death.
Under the law, detention at the ruler’s pleasure means Alex will be eligible for release at the discretion of the ruler.
However, Alex told FMT that he will seek a royal pardon.
When met at the Kajang prison library recently, Alex appeared elated at the opportunity to speak about his academic journey. He said the Prisons Department is helpful and supportive of his goals.
“I am gathering certain data for my research now. I have access to the Internet in the library but some websites are restricted here. But it’s okay because I just write down what I need for my studies and the prison officers happily assist,” he said.
An officer told FMT that the assistance provided to Alex is in line with the department’s philosophy of humane treatment of prisoners.
Alex’s motivation to study stems from his pursuit of knowledge, a desire that blossomed while he was held in a juvenile detention centre.
“I knew an inmate who took the SPM examination. If he could do it, I could do it too, but my friends were sceptical about my dream considering my situation.
“They said whatever education certificate I obtained would be useless as I’d be stuck here forever. I want to prove them wrong.”
His routine in the library begins at 9am for four to five hours every day after finishing a daily task assigned by the prison. At night, he reads a journal and plans his studies for the next day.
When asked if he thought he might be forgiven someday, Alex answered that he held on to such hope.
“Everyone makes mistakes,” he said, explaining that he deserved a second chance.
“Once I’m out, I want to become a motivator to youngsters and encourage them to study and be a law-abiding person as they have no idea how it feels to become an inmate and to have that label etched on you forever.”
He admitted to being frustrated watching other inmates come and go while he appeared to be stuck forever.
His advice to children who toy with the idea of messing with the law was brief: think twice. “The experience can break you.”