sun 29/03/2020

How To Stay out of Jail, Channel 4 review – a bold rehabilitation programme from Durham police | reviews, news & interviews

How To Stay out of Jail, Channel 4 review – a bold rehabilitation programme from Durham police

How To Stay out of Jail, Channel 4 review – a bold rehabilitation programme from Durham police

Touching and insightful film about offenders trying to seize a second chance

John, battling mental health issues and unemployment

With prison overcrowding reaching chronic proportions, police in County Durham have developed the Checkpoint programme to try to keep offenders out of jail with rehabilitation in the community. It’s like Felons Anonymous – candidates have to sign a contract confessing their crimes and stipulating that they won’t reoffend.

With prison overcrowding reaching chronic proportions, police in County Durham have developed the Checkpoint programme to try to keep offenders out of jail with rehabilitation in the community. It’s like Felons Anonymous – candidates have to sign a contract confessing their crimes and stipulating that they won’t reoffend. They get one chance, and if they break the pledge they’ll end up behind bars.

Some find it easier than others to kick their criminal habits, but according to statistics we were shown, prisoners released from jail were more than twice as likely to reoffend as Checkpoint “graduates”. Jemma Gander’s sensitively-observed film for Channel 4 – the lens was so close-in that focus would shift restlessly between a mouth or a nose or a cheekbone – gazed revealingly on the offenders and the case officers who work closely with them. Behind the angry and confused exteriors of the law-breakers, Gander found a tangle of emotional issues crying out for a sympathetic ear, which their unfailingly upbeat mentors were happy to provide.

Cases had been hand-picked for maximum effect. It was impossible not to feel pangs of sympathy for burly, bearded John, who’d hit his young son in a moment of extreme frustration, but was slowly persuaded to tease out his back-story of mental breakdown and unemployment. The joy on the face of Lucy, his Checkpoint worker, when he was successfully signed off from the programme was wonderfully unfeigned.

Sam, hospitalised after a drunk-driving calamity and in danger of losing her children through neglect, was sufficiently traumatised by the realisation of what she’d done to snap out of her old ways (“everybody has to make a mistake and learn from it,” she reflected). She sucessfully pulled her shambolic life together and appreciated how “Checkpoint pointed me in the right direction”. But another John, facing a 14-year-sentence for drug and burglary offences, had the stricken look of a drowning man, and failed the Checkpoint challenge. Despite its annoying habit of recapping the story after every commercial break, this was a touching and quietly illuminating film.

The joy on the face of Lucy, his Checkpoint worker, was wonderfully unfeigned

rating

Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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