Niki Cheong is blogging

Out of jail, into the real world

I see the signs but I’m not sure what it’s telling me. Neither do I think that there has to be a hidden message somewhere, but sure coincidences like this happened for a reason. Or maybe I’ve been reading one spiritual book too many.

Whatever it is, I’m intrigued.

I don’t know if you’ve managed to catch it but I am hooked onto this new TV show (well, at least new to Malaysia) called Life. It airs on Astro (StarWorld I think) every Tuesday night and is basically about this police officer who has just been released after being wrongly imprisoned for 12 years.


It stars Damian Lewis (pictured, right) in the lead role as Officer Charlie Crews, Sarah Shahi (pictured, left) as his new work-partner and Adam Arkin (he of Chicago Hope fame). Basically, the story revolves around how he is fitting back into life in the police force (obviously spending so many years in prison means he’s learnt a thing or two about how criminals work). Along the way, he is piecing together new clues and evidence hoping to find out who was it that framed him and caused him to be imprisoned in the first place. But essentially, the story is about one man dealing which freedom.

I was hooked immediately after accidentally catching the first episode. Incidentally, at the time I started watching Life, I was also in the midst of reading a book called Boy A. It is written by a British author named Jonathan Trigell and the book was turned into a BBC movie last year.

Boy A

Boy A tells the story of Jack Burridge, a 23-year-old youth who has just been released from prison – he, together with his ‘accomplice’ B, was imprisoned for the murder of a young girl when he was 10 years old. While the book flip flops between then (when he was a kid) and now (after his release), it basically was the story about a young man trying to find his place in the real world again. His discoveries, like with Detective Crews in Life, were similar – Jack came out wondering what the hell DVDs were, Crews didn’t know that mobile phones could take pictures.

Jack is released with great opposition from the public (the media was on his case) as they did not believe that such a ‘monster’ should be released. As such, the authorities arranged for him to be released with a new identity (yes, Jack is not his real name). As he rediscovers life outside the bars, he struggles with his conscience whether or not to tell his new best friend (and colleague) as well as new girlfriend (of whom he enjoys his first taste of sex) about his real identity. He wants to be honest with them, but is not sure of the repercussions and if they will be able to accept that he is not the monster he has been labeled.

I am not going to tell you more about the book as not to give anything away but I will say that I tremendously enjoyed the book. It was good reading as it wasn’t one of those feel good books – it was refreshing for me because it explored so many issues without being judging anything morally. I really enjoyed the way it was written too.

Anyway, having finished reading it, I thought it was really interesting, the parallels that I could pull between the TV series and the book. And then I came across this article in last week’s The Star.

Headlined Freedom in sight for NZ’s youngest killer, the article was written by Charles Chan. Eighteen-year-old Bailey Junior Kurariki is expected to be released from prison come September, four months before completing his seven-year jail sentence for the murder of pizza-delivery guy Michael Choy. According the the report, Bailey was not one of the five others who killed Michael (using a baseball bat), he was the lookout kid.

Still, aged 12 then, he had gotten the most coverage as he was the youngest of the six who attacked Michael.

In the article, Charles ask: “Who will hire him? Will society spurn him? Can he stay out of trouble?” – the very same questions that I feel Boy A addresses.

I just thought that it was strange that all these stories appeared in my life over the short span of less than a month. Like how I accidentally found out about Life, I had also stumbled upon Boy A. I was heading to the cashier in the bookstore when when I saw the book (I actually noticed it because I thought the image of a young man wearing a hoodie smiling seemed interesting – yes, I know, judging a book by its cover and all that).

Thinking about all these three stories though – fiction and otherwise – I start to wonder if the ‘message’ I was talking about at the beginning of this post is redemption (Sure, there’s also the question of readjusting to life – but I think that one’s pretty obvious). Can one ever redeem himself, and will others give one a chance? Does one deserve a chance or should one be condemned forever?

I’m not quite sure. There is a large part of me which is sympathetic – Jack Burridge and Bailey Junior were both so young when the incidences happened. What drives people to commit the crimes they, well, commit? Are people born evil or is it the circumstances in which they live around the drive them to such actions? And surely people change, and should not be forever condemned? Isn’t imprisonment supposed to be about punishment and rehabilitation?

But then, I read about what Michael Choy’s mother Rita Croskery said in the article, “It’s soul-destroying.” and wonder if I’d feel the same if the crime was committed against someone I loved.

Worth thinking about, no?

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