I’ve been lucky enough to watch this biographical film twice. It charts the transition of six people incarcerated, along with roughly the other 83,000 we lock up in this country (fewer in Europe only than Russia and Turkey), to freedom.
Working with the Timpson Group, who have to date provided jobs for over 600 people on release, they are given an opportunity to train in prison and then work for the company on release. The impact of having a job and a home (and love) on release cannot be underestimated, with reoffending costing the tax payer over £18bn a year.
So a little about the six who starred in the film, including Anthony, a murderer who talked eloquently last week at the showing I attended. People who’s lives have been blessed enough not to grace the criminal justice system, often ask me why people offend. If there was a succinct and simple one-line answer, I almost certainly would not have spent the last six years working my ***e off to make a small difference.
There are as many reasons as there are people, including all those who skirt the law, get away with it, hold power fraudulently and haven’t been caught yet. This is not a binary question relating only to the 83,000 on the ‘inside’. Every one of us that has offended (broken the speed limit for example) must ask ourself how it occurred. Even this minor infringement presents us with relevant learning into how easily offending happens.
Every single one of the six in the film had experienced trauma. From a childhood of beatings, sexual violence, to drug use (to escape the violence), their children being abused by others, multiple unaddressed childhood bereavements, absent parents (dead, divorced, prison), parents forcing them into crime or abusing them and so on and so on. The question as to why people who have experienced the same don’t go on to commit crime remains hotly contested and still something of a mystery.
What these six tell us is that unaddressed trauma, pain and neglect goes on to have catastrophic affects on people, their victims, the community and us as tax payers. How many of us are walking around with our own pain, causing pain to others, even if it doesn’t result in breaking the law?
I for one cannot be certain how I would behave if I had experienced their lives. They are culpable, take responsibility for their actions and have done their time. But they cannot be blamed for being victims of harm, crime, abuse, neglect and wider societal failings. And for all those reasons they deserve second, third, fourth and fifth chances.