Regardless of whether the penal system subscribes to a punitive or rehabilitative philosophy, the turning point for Whye Kee was the death of his father. The sense of permanent loss of a loved one and not wanting to bring further shame to his family proved to be the driving force for turning over a new leaf.

For inmates with families, this may indeed be the key towards reintegration into society. By helping to build and strengthen family bonds, an ex-offender gets emotional support and inspiration from loved ones which goes a long way towards reducing recidivism. Coupled with new vocational skills acquired through rehabilitation programs both during incarceration as well as post-release, an ex-offender has a higher chance of sticking within the straight and narrow path. 

Whye Kee’s description of his attendance of his father’s funeral in prison uniform and chained like a mass murderer, in front of all his relatives, showed the regret that he felt. The impact of such an experience on his determination to reform probably exceeded that of incarceration and caning. While this may not be the case for someone who does not have a supportive family, it behooves the system to recognize that understanding what makes an particular offender ticks will make a difference to the outcome of any rehabilitation program.

While the public face of a penal system serves to protect the public and to deter would-be offenders, its implementation needs to go beyond the punitive elements and extend to personalizing the reform programs that will be most effective in helping an inmate be internally motivated to stay away from crime. Every ex-offender that stays clean means one less crime and one less victim. It is in the public interest to ensure the after having paid penance for their crimes, ex-offenders can lead a normal life