Rajashekar Karnagaran

Rajashekar Karnagaran

Senior Prison Officer

My company and job

I am a Senior Prison Officer from the Singapore Prison Service (SPS), a correctional agency that has a twin purpose of (i) ensuring safe and secure custody of inmates; and (ii) supporting their rehabilitation and reintegration journey.

I am currently with the Operations Planning Branch under Operations Division. In this posting, I have strategic insights into the planning and implementation of operation policies which have an impact on prison institutions’ operations.  

Getting the job

The selection process comprises of two stages, namely the selection assessment stage and panel interview stage. Candidates are required to go through a series of tests during the selection assessment stage – color vision test, body mass index, situational judgement test, personality test and a written test. If they pass all tests, they will advance to the panel interview stage. 

Interviewers are constantly looking out for traits such as organised thoughts, good listening and communication skills, and the ability to de-escalate potentially tense moments, amongst others. It definitely helps if one is able to stay calm and composed throughout the interview.

The best bits

Prior to my posting to Operations Division, I was a Housing Unit Officer (HUO) at one of the prisons within SPS.

This posting goes beyond equipping me with the competency to run the daily operations of the Housing Unit (HU) where inmates are accommodated and also undergo a wide range of rehabilitative programmes.

From a rehabilitation and reintegration angle, it gave me an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of inmates, through purposeful interactions with them. In terms of development, the role of a HUO was also helpful in building my leadership capabilities by leading a team of passionate and like minded Captains of Lives.

One of my most rewarding experiences was my interaction with a young offender who was under my charge but also had anger management issues. It took some time but he slowly opened up and shared more about his story and aspirations with me. After learning about his desire to upgrade himself academically, I nominated him for an in-care academic study programme conducted in SPS.

The experience of being able to create a positive impact in the lives of inmates and seeing how our small gestures can support their subsequent reintegration motivates me to continue my career with SPS.

Be prepared for

As a Captain of Lives (COLs), we need to embrace four important values in the daily course of our work. We need to have Synergy and work with others within and beyond SPS. We need to have Vigilance to stay alert and focused at all times. We also need to have Integrity in whatever we do and exercise Care where necessary.

Some may have the misconception that working in prisons is dangerous, harsh and monotonous. However, as Captains of Lives we are equipped in all aspects (academically, tactically and physically) to fulfil the challenging work we do.

If u ask me, there is never a dull moment in SPS – as COLs, we are given many opportunities to engage in not just operational work in the prisons but also planning and policy work at a strategic level.

Some advice

My advice to aspiring Captains of Lives would be to excel in your studies and be the best that you can be. If you have what it takes to lead and help others, do join us.

Follow your heart and it should lead you to a meaningful and life-enriching career.