One of the best ways to judge a society is not by looking at how it treats law-abiding citizens but through appraising its relationship with the perpetrators of crime. One mistake, one moment of madness, can have an almost irreparable effect on someone’s life, but their life should not be solely defined by one mistake. Substance abuse takes a massive toll on so many people. Behind all the glitz and glamour of LA are the hundreds of thousands of people living on the streets of Skid Row. Skid Row Marathon is a story of redemption.

Craig Mitchell is a criminal court judge who sentences felons to life imprisonment on a daily basis. A visit to the Midnight Mission homeless centre inspired him to form a running club for those in need of a second chance. He promises his motley assortment of addicts and offenders that if they can get into shape and stay clean then they will have the opportunity to run in an international marathon for free. Hundreds take up his challenge but many fall by the wayside. Rafael, Rebecca, David and Ben are four who succeed.

Skid Row Marathon is a powerful documentary about the perils of addiction and affording criminals a second chance. Director Mark Hayes doesn’t sugar-coat or try and downplay the crimes they’ve committed. This isn’t about shifting blame. It’s a film about understanding, tolerance and allowing people the opportunity to turn over a new leaf. We’re often defined by the situation we find ourselves in. Skid Row Marathon is a compelling case for opening the door to rehabilitation and presenting opportunities for offenders to change their lives.

Skid Row Marathon is in cinemas on 9 May only.