With the prison population in England and Wales reaching a record 85,706 earlier this month - and showing no sign of slowing in the near future - The Fear Factory's cogent critique of our warped criminal justice system is both timely and welcome.
How have we ended up with the largest prison population in Western Europe when we imprisoned just 45,000 people in 1993?
Using interviews with practitioners, former prisoners, politicians and journalists the 60-minute documentary patiently argues that since the late 1970s there has been an "arms race" between the two political parties about being tougher than the other on law and order.
Rod Morgan, the head of the Youth Justice Board between 2004 and 2007, highlights how compared with the last few decades 10 or 20 years ago, "we have become more interventionist, more punitive - dragging more and more kids into the system - and dealing with them more punitively."
Director of the Prison Reform Trust Juliet Lyons concurs, pointing out that sentencing has got harsher, which will surprise many as it "flies in the face of what we often read in the papers."
But ex-Sun leader writer Chris Roycroft-Davies argues that the tabloids are simply reflecting the public's craving for "proper sentencing."
Common sense this may be, but it's a view the film has little time for, citing the fact that while violent crime makes up just 3 per cent of total crime, it makes up 45 per cent of crime reporting in the media.
Morgan maintains that "sophisticated evidence about public attitudes shows that "the public are not very punitive. In fact their attitudes are quite supportive of quite liberal measures."
Yet David Cameron's brief dalliance with the social factors behind anti-social behaviour in 2006 is a perfect example of the detrimental influence of the right-wing press.
Double-whammied by a braying media mob and the Labour frontbench, the new Prime Minister was attacked and ridiculed then for wanting to "hug a hoodie."
That was a political lesson for every politician, former director deneral of the prison pervices Martin Narey argues and Cameron certainly didn't need telling twice.
He bluntly informed the Police Federation in the aftermath of the media storm: "I am a Conservative. I believe in punishment."
What about the current crisis?
Mentoring and intensive fostering are briefly discussed in the film, as is the fact that the Youth Justice Board's budget is skewed towards custody rather than early prevention.
Positive first steps no doubt, but there is a sense that the filmmakers ducked more radical, far-reaching solutions to this ongoing crisis.
But that's a minor criticism of a compelling and well-paced documentary that turns popular punitive logic on its head.
Contrary to hysterical newspaper headlines such as "Youth jail is like a holiday camp" in the Daily Telegraph, Narey argues that "If we were really determined to reduce crime and future victims, I honestly, honestly believe we would send fewer young people to prison."
The Fear Factory should be compulsory viewing for every journalist, politician and interested member of the public.
Better still it should be stapled to the front of every right-wing tabloid that continues to brazenly feed the public's ignorance of crime in search of naked profit and political influence.
To buy the film on DVD for the discounted price of Â£9.95 visit http://www.spiritlevelfilm.com and enter the discount code 'STAR' at checkout. To host a screening, contact Spirit Level Film on (020) 7569-3039 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
If you appreciated this article then please consider donating to the Morning Star's Fighting Fund to ensure we can keep developing your paper.