A new documentary series for ITV1, which takes a group of young men back in time to a 1930s borstal, is being filmed at a north Northumberland castle.
The series, which has a working title of Bring Back Borstal?, is being filmed by leading independent production company Wall to Wall until Sunday, September 14, at Ford Castle.
The series aims to explore the founding principles of the borstal system, based on ‘physical and purposeful activity’, challenging the preconceptions around the system emanating from the period when borstals were closed in the 1980s.
Today, re-offending rates among young adults are at an all-time high of nearly 60 per cent, and it’s nearer 73 per cent for (up to) 18-year-olds.
Putting a young criminal through a young offenders’ institution costs as much as it does to send a boy to a leading public school.
The re-offending rate for 1930s borstal leavers was far lower at just 30 per cent.
By bringing history to life, the series will ask if today’s young offenders can cope with the demands of borstal life –based on education, learning a trade, fitness and discipline – and whether as a result of this experience, they will end up walking away with new skills, potential job prospects and a new crime-free direction.
Filming at close quarters throughout their stay, the series will show how today’s young men who have led troubled lives are affected by a system long since consigned to history, which swaps the ‘lock-down’ regime for a busy schedule of structure and routine.
Through rigorous historical research, each ‘inmate’ will be immersed in a system modelled on the ideals and regime of borstal.
Professor David Wilson, a leading criminologist and former prison governor, will act as both borstal governor and advisor.
The first institution was established at Borstal Prison in a village called Borstal, near Rochester, Kent, in 1902. The borstal system was abolished by The Criminal Justice Act 1982.