Originally conceived as a documentary aimed at preventing youth violence, Lifers evolved to become a deeper exploration of crime and humanity–a look at the prison system and the people entrenched in it, including inmates, their families and people who work with them.
In Canada, unlike the United States, people sentenced to life do, in most cases, get out of prison. Is this a more humane system, or does it let murderers back on the streets to kill again? With a recidivism rate of less than 1%, it seems that rehabilitation may be possible. But then, a larger question comes into play: Do these men deserve a second chance?
A drug addict and drinker, Kevin and his friend killed a pastor who they believed to be a child molester. Sentenced to maximum security, Kevin cleaned up his act, got off the drugs and feels that the outside world isn’t so far out of his grasp. When Meva was 18 years old, his father paid him $1,200 to kill his uncle. He was sentenced to life for the murder of not only his uncle but his aunt as well. Once inside he became involved in an institutional murder. He has learned to read and write in prison, and has fostered a relationship with other members of his family–but getting out seems a long way off. Ryan was “the boy next door,” but at 18 he killed a female cab driver in Banff, Alberta. Bayfield was 20 when he robbed and killed a man. Since his sentence, he turned to religion and wants to be a preacher. He seems to accept the punishment for his crime and is prepared to wait as long as he needs to. Jordan, in prison for murder already, was part of a prison riot where several prison guards were murdered. Todd claims he didn’t actually kill anyone–but was part of a brutal robbery that left an older couple dead.
The six men who share their stories have one thing in common: they have all taken the life, or lives, of other human beings. They also each bring with them their own lessons. Reflecting on their lives, their crimes and wondering when they’re going to get out, these men allow an intimate and humane glimpse into a world most of us don’t get to, or want to, experience.
Available for purchase in the United States through the National Film Network.
Directed and Produced by Sheona McDonald.