There is also the obvious question about whether Darius' race had anything to do with the length of his incarcerations, but Irving didn't feel there was a need to address that in Off the Rails. "That is actually something that we considered to make a bigger part of the film, but what we found is that just the fact that Darrius is black and I would hope that in 2016 educated or aware people know that there is racism and that the justice system tends to give people of colour longer and harsher sentences for the exact same crimes."
At the time of the interview, Darius McCollum was once again in jail awaiting trial, with Irving noting that Darius' lawyer was hoping to get his some special treatment. "His lawyer is trying to get him into mental health court, where his punishment would be therapy, instead of actually going to prison for another five or ten years," says Irving. "But so far, his lawyer’s attempts have not been successful. They’ve rejected their request to be in mental health court, but they can appeal I think one more time."
There is also the fact that people in the black community Darius was raised in likely didn't even know what Asperger's Syndrome was. "When Darius committed his first crime, they just though he had behavioural problems," says Irving. "They didn’t know that there was this thing called Asperger’s and I think that if he was in a more affluent, whiter community, instead of kicking him out of school or throwing him in jail or throwing him in an institution where he is given thorazine and is foaming at the mouth, they would have actually just said ‘alright, he’s a special kid, he’s not bad, he doesn’t have behavioral problems, he just sees the world differently, and he just need to learn to communicate more in a way that he is comfortable with.’ And I think if he wasn’t black, then there would have been a higher likelihood that would have been recognized and treated in a more humane way."
In addition to Off the Rails, there is a biopic about Darius McCollum in development, with Julia Roberts attached to be one of the stars. Irving notes that Darius thrives on the attention and that the biopic would like fill that need once the documentary has run its course. "When people aren’t talking about him, he feels like he has to go and do something to get into the spotlight again," says Irving. "So, I think that the Julia Roberts movie will kind of take over from mine in keeping him excited and people talking and maybe creating enough attention, so someone would intervene and help him."
If you want to help support people with Asperger's Syndrome, please feel free to make a donation to the Asperger's Society of Ontario and ensure that people with Asperger's, such as Darius McCollum and myself, get the support that they need. Off the Rails is now playing at the Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema.