New SBS documentary ‘Life on the Outside’ follows unique initiative to tackle recidivism
Hosted by actor and activist, Danielle Cormac (Wentworth), this new three-part series is inspired by a unique initiative in the United States, the fight against recidivism – a person’s relapse into criminal behavior. life outside follows a similar approach in a world television premiere on Wednesdays from March 168:30 p.m. on SBS and SBS On Demand, place formerly incarcerated people in households for the first 100 days of their release from prison, as a circuit breaker to help turn their lives around.
Billions of dollars are spent every year to keep people imprisoned in Australia, with more than 40,000 people currently incarcerated. One in two will return indoors within the first two years of release. There is a clear link between prison overcrowding and recidivism, with overcrowding impacting rehabilitation, education and job training programsand linked to increased violence and poor mental health. Upon release from prison, most people released from prison find it difficult to reintegrate into society due to their history of trauma and institutionalization. Some of the main factors that contribute to recidivism are a lack of support for these mental and emotional complexities, and a lack of accommodationwith thousands of homeless ex-convicts.
After consultation with non-governmental organizations, charities, social workers and people with lived experience, life outside explores the potential of an initiative like this to create real change.
Presenter Danielle Cormack said: “Recidivism is a subject close to my heart. As a partner of Heartspeak Worldwide and through my work with charities such as SHINE for Kids, I have seen how at-risk youth and families with loved ones in the criminal justice system also pay the price. It would be easy to pass judgement, but the impact of incarceration should not be underestimated. For many, freedom can feel like a slippery slope and recur as the only path to a bed, a meal, and a sense of belonging. I believe everyone should be treated equally and am excited about the potential for real change explored in this series.
Over three episodes, the series follows four formerly incarcerated people in a daring experiment that places them in homes with a carefully selected person or family for the first 100 days of their release. Through this initiative, they are offered room and board, 24-hour access to a social worker, and introductions to various mentors and support programs.
Husband and wife, wayne and Juliaagree to stay Bretta serial offender who has been in prison four times. Louise Ridlen and her two adult children, Brittany and management, agree to stay Jeremiah, a 41-year-old man who has spent almost half his life in prison and has been in prison 14 times.
During his 100 day stay with the Ridlens, Jeremy said: “They’ve been so supportive and been so great when it comes to putting my whole past next to me and saying, you know what, let’s judge him by the way he is. And if more people were like Louise and her family, the crime rate would drop dramatically, the prisons would be half empty, and the world would be a much better place.
school teacher nigel agree to stay Danish, a 24-year-old Bundjalung and father of three, who spent 10 months in prison. As an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, Dane is statistically among the most incarcerated people in the world. Dane said: “I appreciate everything about this program because it has given me a stable place to live, and there is someone to talk to if I need it. They gave me the opportunity to go out and see my children.
Amanda is an empty nest that wants to offer support to others who may not have it and agrees to house Sierraa 41-year-old mother of two who has spent the past 13 months in detention.
The series also features people with lived experience of prison and its aftermath who offer insight into the difficulties ex-prisoners face when trying to reintegrate into society, and how support from outside is a crucial step to reduce the risk of recurrence. These include Joe, who served nine years; Alby, who served 14 years; and Jenna, a former police officer who served 12 months.
The power of a second chance requires both parties to approach the initiative with confidence and an open mind, but it is not without challenges. This insightful series shows that big risk can bring big reward, as people open their homes – and their hearts – to those looking to improve their lives.
Head of SBS documentaries, Joseph Maxwell said: “life outside addresses recidivism in a provocative, yet deliberate way, through an initiative that could go a long way to reducing the staggering rate of reconvictions in this country. The series cuts through the stigma and offers a different perspective to generate awareness and understanding of the ongoing battle that formerly incarcerated people face as they attempt to rebuild their lives. It is the role of SBS to create programs that stimulate national conversation around important issues. We hope this program will contribute to social cohesion and inspire positive action.
ITV Studios Australia, Head of Facts and Reality, Ben Ulm said: “life outside was one of the most difficult and complex series we have undertaken. While the public often perceives criminals as hardened and resilient, they are in fact among the most vulnerable members of our community, especially as they return to the free world. Thank you to all of our contributors who bravely shared their stories. This series is authentic, insightful and thought provoking. ITV Studios Australia is proud of what we have achieved and now is the time to continue the conversation.
life outside is an ITV Studios Australia production for SBS.
life outside will also be available to stream on SBS On Demand with subtitles in five languages: Simplified Chinese, Arabic, Vietnamese, Traditional Chinese and Korean, allowing more Australians to engage with these important topics.
Life on the Outside airs Wednesdays starting March 16 at 8:30 p.m. on SBS and SBS On Demand. The three-part series continues each week.