Viewport width =
March 19, 2007 | by  | in Film | [ssba]

Scum (1979)

Due to several recent high-profile violent crimes committed by prisoners released by the parole board, there has been much talk about prisons and sentencing. Most of this discussion, from politicians and the media, is about how prisons are too luxurious and sentences too short. Of course, most of this populist discourse has been short on facts and evidence. They describe a simplistic solution of prisons, wanting more brutal and longer jail terms, which have no real affect on crime rates. Often it can cause the crime rate to go up as it has in America. Welfare, employment opportunities, and poverty all have a far bigger influence on crime rates. However, prisons have more to do with hiding away the failings of this society than protecting us from crime.

Few films have portrayed the horror of incarceration better than Alan Clarke’s Scum. Set in a British Borstal (reform school/youth prison) Carlin, played by a young Ray Winstone, has a reputation for being a hard case. After he is transferred from another borstal, the guards beat him up, just to show their power over him. Then the head bully also beats him, to let Carlin know his place in the prison pecking order. Carlin takes the beating while he bides his time, just waiting for the right moment. When he finally makes his move, it is an explosion of gritty realist violence that results in Carlin becoming the leader of the prisoners. The brutality does not end there because the system of punitive internment is based on violence, enforced by violence and is a breeding ground for violence.

We see this played out all through the film, but it reaches peak ferocity when the prisoners struggle to retain what little of their humanity they have left. They take collective action, which threatens the powers-that-be, which is a crime that they will never tolerate.

Prisons break up communities and families, dehumanise the prisoners and guards, and are an unnecessary drain of resources. All this does is perpetrate the inequalities and social injustices that breed crime. Better schools, health care, jobs and a higher standard of living would be a much more effective way to bring about safer communities.

However, spouting the usual get-tough-on-crime rhetoric is easier for politicians than is attacking the root causes of crime.

ALAN CLARKE

[ssba]

About the Author ()

Comments are closed.

Recent posts

  1. VUW Halls Hiking Fees By 50–80% Next Year
  2. The Stats on Gender Disparities at VUW
  3. Issue 25 – Legacy
  4. Canta Wins Bid for Editorial Independence
  5. RA Speaks Out About Victoria University Hall Death
  6. VUW Hall Death: What We Know So Far
  7. FANTA WITH NO ICE
  8. New Normal
  9. Come In, The Door’s Open.
  10. Love in the Time of Face Tattoos

Editor's Pick

Uncomfortable places: skin.

:   Where are you from?  My list was always ready: England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, puppy dogs’ tails, a little Spanish, maybe German, and—almost as an afterthought—half Samoan. An unwanted fraction.   But you don’t seem like a Samoan. I thought you were [inser

Do you know how to read? Sign up to our Newsletter!

* indicates required