Lock Them Up or Let Them Out, BBC2

by | Nov 6, 2006 | All, Reviews

Did we like it?

Yes, a well-made start to this documentary series following prisoners applying for parole. It commendably avoided hyperbole and painted a balanced picture of this aspect of the penal system.

What was good about it?

• The programme did not shirk from showing just how difficult it is to decide whether to offer parole to a prisoner. The tabloids never fail to highlight when a prisoner re-offends after being released, putting every decision under the microscope, but this was a fascinating account showing how things are never as black and white as the tabloids would have us believe.

• Barry, nearly 40 and a convicted armed robber, had served six years of his 12 year sentence. This was a man that had never worked in his life, yet a viewer could not fail to be impressed with his attitude – how he’d given up class A drugs, how he’d worked for skills in prison and with his eloquence. We’d have let him out, especially as he’d then have two years of probation supervision, yet he was denied parole.

• Michael Finch socked it to the man by burning five police cars after an argument with the local police over the inquest into his brother’s murder. Sentenced to four years, Michael was a likeable character who insisted he was justified in his actions. He was intelligent and at prison had helped other prisoners to read and write. But he seemed a little unhinged and we’d have kept him inside, yet he was granted parole.

• Mukhtar Hussain, who viciously murdered his brother’s wife, was released back to Pakistan after a 21-year sentence. Another interesting case, it seemed throughout that Hussain had learning difficulties and a harsh upbringing, making the decision horrendously hard for the diligent board.

• The programme highlighted that, in most cases, the decision makers don’t get to question the prisoners due to government cutbacks. Although this is regrettable, it made for interesting viewing as the audience could measure their own feelings about the prisoners featured against the views of the parole board.

• The parole board seems to be dominated by posh women in nice suits who wouldn’t know a chav until they came up and nicked their pearl necklace.

What was bad about it?

• The one very small criticism we might level was the moment when the narrator, up until that point impartial, seemed to criticise the system for not consulting the specific victims of specific crimes. It is a point worth debating, but there was no time for this statement to be challenged.

• We felt a bit guilty when we started to regard the programme as a game show. Who’s gonna be evicted? Place your bets now. (Alas, only one out of the three decisions coincided with our predictions)

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!


Follow us:

Our Latest Posts:

Season 2 of Only Murders in the Building.

Season 2 of Only Murders in the Building.

The first season of Only Murders in the Building was one of the best shows of last year. Funny, warm and with a new take on the mystery genre it was unpredictable and...


Submit a Comment