Kids Behind Bars, Channel 4

by | Aug 25, 2005 | All, Reviews

What to say if you liked it

Rex Bloomstein, whose 1980 BBC2 series Strangeways helped bring some humanity into prisons, tries to understand what makes young thugs tick and TWOC.

What to say if you disliked it

Comprising a series of hesitant interviews in bare surroundings with kids who took pride in their crimes, it was a bleak film and very hard to watch.

What was good about it?

• Bloomstein’s patient questioning (“What is it about the Mondeo you like so much?”) as he tried to tease feelings and explanations from offenders who struggle to complete the simplest sentence.

• While none of the young offenders in two institutions in Northumberland were in any way likable, Jenny, 14, had some engaging qualities, not least her Vicky Pollardalike streams of excuses (“‘Your mum’s a dyke’, she said. ‘At least I’ve got a mum’.”) and her love of chess (“We may be locked up but we’re not thick.”). But she refuses to blame herself for her violent acts (“I was upset because my mum left. Instead of self harm, I went out battering people.”) If Jenny stays out of jail, she hopes to become a beautician or work in social services (“Most of social services are mongs”).

• The honesty of Steve, who has the looks to be a boyband member but is serving a six-year sentence in a cell for stabbing (instead of a one-year sentence on CD:UK). What did he miss most? he was asked. “Drugs. I love my drugs.” He was the only interviewee who showed shame and wasn’t resigned to a life behind bars.

What was bad about it?

• Unrepentant Darren who thinks his burglary victims won’t mind much because they’ll get insurance money and compensation from the fines imposed on him – and paid by his mother. Two weeks after being filmed leaving the YOI, he was back, grinning and bragging about robbing an off licence.

• The dead-eyed duo Robert and Tony, who set fire to a new acquaintance because he knocked over a Pot Noodle.

• The mumbled, monosyllabic responses of car thief Niall, who was surprisingly the only interviewee to utter the words “not bothered”.

• Bloomstein may have set out with the most liberal of intentions, but the sight of the tearaways sitting in clean cells, all with televisions, or being fussed over by social workers may have accidentally provided ammunition for those nasty members of the flog-’em brigade.

Luke Knowles

Luke Knowles


Editor of the website and host of the podcast. A general TV obsessive. I've been running the site since 2008 and you can usually find me in front of the TV. My Favourite show of all time is Breaking Bad with Cracker coming a close second. I feel so passionately that television can change the world and I'm doing my little bit by running this site. You're Welcome!


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