Scum Film Details
Overview: An uncompromising story of life in a British juvenile offender institution in the 70’s.
Tagline: The film they tried to ban! A brutal story of today.
Review: Brutal, shocking, disturbing and powerful were just some of the words used to describe the film ‘Scum’ released in 1979. The film portrays what it was like for boys who lived in borstals in the 1970s by following the character of ‘Carlin’ and other inmates on their everyday experiences including racism, violence, rape and a corrupted system between inmates and guards. When watching this film it lead me to question whether the harsh and punitive system in 1970 actually was so brutal or whether it actually worked in rehabilitating offenders in comparison to the ‘softer’ approach of restorative justice system which is used today? Borstals first opened in 1902 and were set up as specialized detention centers for young people. By separating the young offenders from adults in their own enclosed institutions was seen as a major step towards the training of the young offender. Borstal trainees were held from one to three years and in this time their regime was military style; strict discipline, hard work and drill. It claimed to be success in preventing re-offending with the first survey in 1915 reporting reconviction rates as low as 27 percent. However, evidence has shown a different reality and it is this reality which is portrayed by ‘Scum’. As well as receiving grief from the guards, inmates also had to deal with other inmates including those characters thought of as the leader, known as “The Daddy”. Inmates frequently got attacked by “The Daddy” and his gang and had no one to turn to for help as they did not feel they could name who had hurt them without receiving another beating. Many of the elements in ‘Scum’ were actual problems of borstals in real life and have been found ineffective in rehabilitating juvenile offenders. In the film we see that the members of staff controlling the borstal took advantage of their authority when giving punishments to inmates and beating them sometimes for no reason. This was due to the strong belief that corporal punishment was an effective way of dealing with antisocial behaviour. However, it has been found that harsh punishment is not capable of reforming offenders. It has also been found that the strict and military style discipline applied and depicted in the film can actually promote violence and aggressive behaviour rather than preventing it. Also, one of the inmates in the film asks for books to read but is told that he is not allowed to, therefore he is not given the chance to educate himself making borstal life more damaging on him. If offenders in the borstal were given a chance to educate themselves then the scheme may have been more beneficial. Therefore, although removing offenders from the community means they can not commit crimes, it is actually more likely that they would re-offend once being released due to the lack of rehabilitating behaviours within borstals. However, the borstal system was abolished in 1982 and Young Offender institutions were introduced where more emphasis was placed on rehabilitation. Today, restorative justice has been incorporated into several parts of the youth justice system. It has been argued that in the 1970s crime control was fundamentally flawed as harms associated with social life should not have been regulated by the criminal justice system. Instead, restorative justice sees communication between offender, victim and community in order to resolve a dispute, as being important in justice. This is very different from the borstal style system as it uses inclusionary and community based means rather than excluding offenders to institutions. Restorative justice works through reintegrative shaming, restitution mediation and reparation work on the conscience of the offender. Restorative justice is also very different from borstals as it sees punishment as ineffective and disruptive of community relations. Evidence from Family Group Conferences in New Zealand and also ‘reintegrative shaming’ in Australia have shown a marked decrease in re-offending rates since the introduction of the schemes. In 1999 following the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act, referral orders and youth offender panels were introduced in England. Therefore, we can see that youth justice seems to be shifting from an exclusionary and punitive system to becoming inclusionary and restorative. However, although restorative justice has been shown to reduce re-offending, when the riots broke out across the UK in summer 2011 many people began to question whether the justice system was becoming too ‘soft’. In Britain there are no real punitive measures for youths. The Mayor of London suggested restorative justice was a good approach for looters to face the consequence of their actions. However, as well as this, some of the offenders were to be sent to pupil referral units where the offender is deprived from their usual place in school and taken away from friends to be taught by teachers trained to deal with unacceptable behaviour. Therefore, it may be that it is important to have a mix of both rehabilitative measures as well as more punitive measures to help cut criminality and re-offending. It is not yet known if these means of justice have helped with rehabilitation of these offenders as it is still too early to know. However, this type of justice is far from the brutal and shocking displayed scenes of borstal institutions as shown in Scum. From watching the film Scum we are given an insight into a corrupted and shocking justice system in the 1970s where borstals were not places to rehabilitate young offenders, but instead were places which actually lead to more violence and a daily struggle to live with causing some offenders to even go as far as committing suicide to escape. It may be necessary to keep some punitive system within youth justice as the ‘softer’ restorative justice approach alone may not be enough to deter re-offending. However, bringing back borstals would certainly not help with youth justice system and new ideas and research is needed beyond these punitive systems of the past.
Country: United Kingdom
Duration: 98 min
Genre: Crime, Drama
Also known as: Scum,Hołota,Scum – Söpredék,Sukamu,Kapina nuorisovankilassa,Scum más allá de la desgracia,Terror i undomsfengselet,Schorem,Juventude sem Freio,Terror i ungdomsfængslet,Отбросы,Escoria,Revolt,Scum – Abschaum,SCUM スカム,Отрепка,I vromia,Ološ