The Road from Crime

The film The Road from Crime is now available to view on-line and to download (with subtitles in English, Finnish, French, German, Spanish)

Alternatively, you can watch the film here here or for other sizes, downloads and subtitled options visit  We welcome any feedback about the film, details of how you use it and the impact it has.  You can add comments at the bottom of this page.


The exit at the prison gate often appears to be a revolving door with nearly 60 per cent of released prisoners re-offending within two years of their release. Prisons and probation departments have, almost literally, tried everything in efforts to rehabilitate offenders over the past century, but the results have been uniformly bleak leading many to conclude that “nothing works.” In the past ten years, however, a group of criminologists have hit upon what should have been an obvious source of inspiration for prisoner rehabilitation:  the other 40 per cent!

In this timely and compelling documentary, Allan Weaver, a Scottish ex-offender turned probation officer (author of the book So You Think You Know Me?) asks a simple question: What can we learn from those former prisoners who have successfully “desisted” from criminal behaviour or “gone straight?”

Starting where it all began for him on the streets of his hometown and in Barlinnie Prison in Glasgow, Allan sets off to understand how individuals like himself get caught up in cycles of crime and punishment, and how they break out of these patterns and move on to new lives. This journey takes him across the UK, meeting an array of ex-prisoners and ex-prisoner activist groups, probation leaders, and criminological experts from London to Washington, DC.

He discovers that much of what the criminal justice process does actually leads to more re-offending through the labelling and stigmatisation of ex-offenders. Indeed, few ex-prisoners say they were “rehabilitated” by the criminal justice system, but many blame their experiences with the justice system for keeping them trapped in cycles of crime and punishment.

Allan learns that real change more typically involves processes of self-discovery and mutual support. Allan discovers that ‘desistance’ from criminality is an internal change process although it is almost never done without support from the outside. Ex-prisoners speak in detail about the remarkable people who believed in them when others had lost hope, and about realising that they too had something to offer others, including, for many, their children. Desistance for them is about realising one is more than just the sum of one’s crimes and re-discovering one’s humanity, potential, and true self.

The big question – especially pressing for Allan as a probation officer – is whether we can bottle and package these often intangible dynamics into our criminal justice interventions? Can criminal justice processes be improved by a better understanding of how the change processes in desistance from crime really work? How would the criminal justice system be different if it were run by people like Allan who had been through the process themselves?

To answer this, Allan finds a fascinating world of ex-prisoner-led mutual aid and activist groups championing a new model of criminal justice practice. Like Allan, many of the ex-prisoners find meaning and purpose in their lives by helping others to avoid the mistakes they made.  They might also have the answer for tackling the enduring problem of criminal recidivism.

27 thoughts on “Documentary”

  1. i really enjoyed the preview as i think this is so very true for a huge number of offenders which people find very hard to understand at times including myself and the offenders as i have worked with some and involved with lac and a budding offender at the moment i am very interested to see the rest of the film


    1. Thanks a lot for the the feedback Isobel. Hope you find the full film as enjoyable and interesting.


  2. Excellent preview and an interesting area that needs to try and bring more change for people caught up in this cycle. I will look forward to seeing and hearing more.


  3. As someone who spent years locked-up, in and out of institutions and now has been working in corrections for over 30 years, I’m naturally very interested in this soon-to-be-released dvd. Keep me posted please and thank you for your voice and vision. Brad


  4. Really good film . As I work for an organisation that provides supported housing for homeless offenders, I value the acknowledgment that accommodation is a key problem for people leaving prison. I will follow this project with great interest


  5. I love the simplicity of approach ‘we asked the other 40%’ – I can’t wait to see the full film and know that I will regularly be referring to it in my work with potential ‘desisters’.

    Will also be recommending it to other colleagues in probation/prisons in an attempt to encourage them to work differently and to help develop the individuals story. This in turn builds confidence, resilience and hopefully a new cohort of peer mentors.

    Well done everyone and Thanks Alan for your honesty.


  6. A useful preview: Now looking forward to the film……mixed emotions of anger and sadness – anger that society continues to feel the need to lock up more and more people in the name of rehabilitation and sadness that someone like Andy? (at the end of the film) is so frightened of failure that it has blocked his ability to take positive steps forward.


  7. Thank you for providing this film. I work in a programmes unit for the Probation service and I find the desistance debate stimulating and very much relevant to my work. I have started to apply this knowledge during sessions and I can confirm, in my experience that group members engage more with the programme material and they often acknowledge that discussing protective factors that they view as crucial to thier own desistance is more relevant and empowering.


  8. As a Probation Officer the application and recognition of desistance as a means of assisting reform is something that greatly excites me. It is something that we all (wrongly) think we have been doing for years.

    At Fergus McNeill’s lecture at Manchester University last week we were shown parts of The Road from Crime, a fantastic and inspiring documentary that appears to’ tell it like it is’ .

    However this was a huge wake up call for me. Speaking on the film was an ex offender whom we supervised many years ago, it hit me that maybe we should have we listened to him in the office so avidly rather than huddled in lecture theatre !


  9. Today I showed a clip from the film (part three, where Allan speaks to people who have successfully desisted) during a lecture on desistance I gave to social work students at the University of Edinburgh. I think it’s a really powerful way of helping people to engage with the topic of desistance and especially useful for those who are looking to get involved in the ‘desistance business’. Just wanted to say thanks!


    1. Thanks for the feedback Steve – be interested to hear what the students thought of it. Not sure if you’ve also had a look at the useful resources section on the blog but there may be some bits and bobs that might be of use.


  10. As a Probation Officer (offenderex) and the ex partner of an armed robber who set up a hostel for ex offenders in the 1980’s I have seen first hand the power of desistance and the need for cases to form a new identity that has purpose.

    Many of my young gang affiliated cases have attributed their desistance to “The Secret”. Whilst I may not share their enthusiam for “The Secret”, I can see that they are gaining a sense of family, hope and ambition, which is for them, helping them to lead their road from crime.

    Thank you for sharing your experience, it is invaluable.


  11. I thought your documentary was thoughtful, insightful, informative and a breadth and depth analysis of a system that needs a lot of work and transformation.

    I am in the process of researching and designing a potential resettlement/re-integration provision post-prison.

    I would be really keen to hear suggestions of provisions (community alternatives, charities, organisations) that you have visited and feel do work enhancing and supporting the desistance process – and are worth visiting.

    Well done and thank you. Your website and film and have been very useful and thought-provoking.



  12. Thanks for making this really insightful and powerful documentary. Very helpful overview of the concept of desistance and why it matters so much.

    I am going to US (NYC, Washington and NJ) for a month to look at whether young fatherhood is a potential ‘hook’ or turning point for desistance (for young men under 25). We know that a quarter of young men in YOIs are dads, and yet there is little work is done to build on this positive identity – reflects all the messages in the film of giving people hope and moving from label ‘offender’ to ‘dad’. If you have any suggestions of projects or people to meet in NYC then do get in touch.


  13. Seems like almost a perfect example of Lonnie Athens ‘violentization’ theory, the man appears to through all the stages of violentization. Interesting, maybe unjustly overly criticised.


  14. Brilliant documentary, can’t believe I’m only seeing it now. So interesting to see Baltimore so much like it’s representation in The Wire.

    Wonderful to hear about the road to desistance “from those who have actually travelled it.”


  15. Wonderful work – really beautifully made. Thanks for your hard work. Australia – NZ, we should be making this sort of documentary – it’s valuable. Anybody keen to join me in this? I am an Event and Project Manager in the Arts, and a film maker. Lets make this a world wide initiative!


  16. Hola, soy de Chile, sudamerica. Soy psicólogo y trabajo en programas de libertad vigilada con jóvenes infractores de ley. También estudio en la Universidad de Chile en donde investigo acerca de la reincidencia. Creo que en sudamerica y los países en vías de desarrollo en general, la tarea es aún más difícil que la de ustedes, pues no contamos con los recursos adecuados, ni tampoco con investigación. Mi sensación es que trabajamos frente a un gran, gran problema y lo hacemos a ciegas. Sin embargo, al leer y ahora también poder ver esta “nueva criminología”, basada en la evidencia y también basada en la esperanza (el otro 40%) se nos ilumina un poco el camino. Gracias por difundir.


  17. This is such a fantastic resource, something I feel makes desistance research and concepts much more accessible to the general public. It has a very resounding impact on thoughts surrounding who should be leading the way in this field, and I especially benefited from the input from the ex/reformed offenders who have gone on to become campaigners in this field for inclusion of this group in the design and implementation of desistance work. The real-life stories, both positive and negative, have really made this a captivating piece of work.

    I’m guessing that this has informed the Scottish Government in their recent re-think around the rehabilitation of offenders legislation, in trying to ensure that ex-offenders are given as much chance as possible to reintegrate into society.

    I am heartened by the changes in the way the state deals with criminal justice issues in Scotland through such things as the implementation of the recommendations from the Commission on Women Offenders, and look forward to seeing more of the same evidence-informed practice in the future.



  18. Well done to those involved in making the video. Re-offending is a major problem for so many prisoners for the reasons stated in the video. “The Desisting Movement” is very much on the right track to help those prisoners. I just hope the government can see this as a pioneering venture which deserves more money to allow this project to be rolled out across the country. After all at present government is promoting “Big Society.” We should ALL be part of that. Good luck!

    PS- I was very impressed with the American view on what brings about a turnaround in an ex offender’s life.


  19. I would like to produce CC for this film in English and French. In order to do this, I need a URL on vimeo or YouTube. If you provide, I will get this done via the Amara platform. I believe only the owner of the video can then upload these captions onto Vimeo / YouTube, but I can supply you with the file in the right format.
    This will increase access for those who struggle with the accents, like me 🙂 but also open up to those interested in France. Others might contribute other languages.


    1. Claude,

      The film is already available with subtitles in English, Finnish, French, German and Spanish.




  20. wow, can see the desistance finger print all over my life, really reaffirms to me I hold key to my prison cell!


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