Lifers Review: Inside Story

CUTTING EDGE – LIFERS: Monday 25th June, Channel 4, 9pm

Can a murderer ever really change? More importantly… can we ever forgive them?

These are two of the thought-provoking questions raised by this evening’s intriguing Cutting Edge documentary. Over the course of an hour, the heart of the programme is revealed to be an examination of the psychological impacts of killing — how a prisoner deals with their crime with varying degrees of remorse and additionally, how each one comes to terms with the fact that they could spend the rest of their lives incarcerated in Gartree Prison.

I found myself hooked as the programme began with a frank narration of one man’s crime — the first in many that would get me thinking “who would do something like that? Why would someone do something like that?â€?

The man’s view that he now had “nothing to loseâ€? seemed hopelessly sad but a grim reality that I had expected. This is why it was so surprising when throughout the expose, many of the prisoners challenged this opinion. Most notable was Chris, a man serving a minimum of 23 years, who chose to be upbeat and positive — not counting the days, but instead counting how many World Cups he had left to serve. While Lance loved life in prison as he received “three meals a dayâ€? and a much more comfortable life than he would in the outside world.

The documentary also invited us to question our own reactions to the crimes committed and in-turn how we would feel if it were us who was affected. For example, two daughters were shown visiting their father every month, despite the fact that he killed their mother. For me, this invoked a strong reaction as despite their justifications, I couldn’t understand how they had the capacity to forgive him.

Ultimately, what was most interesting was each prisoner’s motivation and subsequent reaction to their crime. While David thinks about what he did “once an hour of every dayâ€?, Kieron doesn’t know if he even feels remorse. Also, some of the prisoners didn’t seem genuine which is why it’s understandable how difficult it must be for the parole board to distinguish between those who have really changed and those who are just “pulling the wool over people’s eyesâ€?.

Essentially, this documentary is an effective, in-depth study into the moral capacity of ‘lifers’ and whether they are truly evil, or just mere victims of circumstance.