Documentary debates new ways to tackle re-offending

Published: 15 June 2012

A new perspective on the issue of persistent re-offending is the key theme to emerge from a remarkable documentary to be screened in front of the Cabinet Secretary for Justice Kenny Macaskill on Monday 18 June 2012.

A new perspective on the issue of persistent re-offending is the key theme to emerge from a remarkable documentary to be screened in front of the Cabinet Secretary for Justice Kenny Macaskill on Monday 18 June 2012.

“The Road to Crime” is told from the perspective of narrator Allan Weaver, himself a former offender who now works as a criminal justice social work manager. In the film, Allan asks a simple question: What can we learn from those former prisoners who have successfully “desisted” from criminal behaviour or “gone straight?”

Allan takes the viewer on a journey that begins with his own past but moves beyond his own story through talking to other reformed offenders, those working with offenders, and criminologists who have studied the ‘desistance’ process. It aims to stimulate debate about how criminal justice systems and practices could be better adapted to support people along the road from crime.

The film starts in the West of Scotland with Allan examining his own pathway into crime and punishment – and discovering the varying fates of some of his former co-offenders. It shows how individuals get caught up in cycles of crime and punishment, as well as how the ‘revolving door at the prison gate’ can be avoided so that people move on with their lives and make a positive contribution to their families and communities. The journey takes Allan across the UK and then onto Washington DC and Baltimore, meeting an array of ex-prisoners, activists and academics.

Through the conversations in the film, Allan learns that real change involves processes of self discovery and mutual support. Ex-offenders talk in detail about the inspirational people who helped them find hope or about those who gave them the confidence to change.

Professor Criminology & Social Work, Fergus McNeill of the University of Glasgow said, “For decades, criminological researchers have been engaged in their equivalent of the alchemist’s quest - searching for the elusive answer to the question ‘what works to reduce reoffending?’. This film starts with a different and broader question – ‘How and why do people go straight?’ – and shows that if we were better at listening to people involved in this challenging journey, and to those that have successfully navigated it, we could get much better at helping people along it. With reoffending costing the UK taxpayer £7-10bn per annum, this is a body of evidence that we all need to take much more seriously.’    

Allan Weaver added: Ex-offenders and frontline criminal justice practitioners have known for a long time what academic research is now revealing; that labelling and stigmatising offenders operates as a barrier to desistance from crime. A key message that came through from all the people I interviewed in this film was that we need to encourage a more inclusive and collaborative approach to supporting change and to achieve this we need to actively involve and listen to those who have travelled this path. To encourage and support the sometimes difficult process of change, people need to be given both the opportunities to change the direction of their lives and the hope that they can be something or someone different.”

“The Road to Crime” is a collaborative venture involving Professor Fergus McNeill (University of Glasgow), Steve Farrall (University of Sheffield), Claire Lightowler (Institute for Research and Innovation in Social Services) and Shadd Maruna (Queen’s University Belfast)  who worked together with a team of ex-offenders, practitioners, policymakers and film-makers, to produce a film which is already stimulating debate across the UK and in other jurisdictions about what criminal justice can learn from those former offenders who have successfully “desisted” from criminal behaviour or “gone straight”. 





The film will be shown at the Boyd Orr Lecture Theatre One, Boyd Orr Building, University Avenue, Glasgow G12 8QQ at 5pm – 7.30.  The film will be introduced by the Cabinet Secretary for Justice Kenny Macaskill.

Anyone interested in attending should register at as places are limited.

For more information contact the University of Glasgow Media Relations Office on 0141 330 3535 

First published: 15 June 2012

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