In 2011, I didn’t find God I found Justine Greening, former MP for Wandsworth. I walked into her surgery a frustrated black man, angry at a world which I believed did not want or care for me – nor I for it. Having spent much of my life in children’s homes and detention centres and 10 years of my life in prison. I explained I wanted to change my life but having been to prison was proving a hinderance even though I had written a book Labelled a Black Villain in 1989. The outcome of meeting Justin led me to work in two schools in Wandsworth to much acclaim.
From there I was much in demand speaking in prisons, schools, conferences, the community, even at NAPOs centenary conference in York about a Concept I was developing called SDM – Social Deprivation Mindset. Such was the innovative and useful nature of SDM for understanding and working with young people involved in criminal activity that some practitioners within the Criminal Justice system asked the Monument Trust to fund me. This helped me develop my Concept even further. And my Programme was even accredited by NOMS. As far as I was concerned, back then the existing Criminal Justice system was old and antiquated, run by an administration which didn’t really want social change or rather found change hard to accept. So little had changed for young people since the time of my first prison sentence in 1975 except maybe things had gotten worse.
I heard the same old rhetoric. Mostly from people who didn’t really have a clue or any empathy with the people they were dealing with or real understanding of their lives. Their lives were so far apart and different they might as well have been talking a different language to each other. Those within the Criminal Justice system it seemed to me had no real understanding of the correlation these men had between the motivation for crime and committing crime which to me was a certain type of Mindset. Many of the “Professionals were genuine and really wanted to affect change in these offenders, I could see that, but they didn’t know how. But I understood completely what was going. Most of the practitioner’s did not understand us or have any real empathy. The whole concept of the Criminal Justice System focussed on responding to Offending and then reducing RE-Offending behaviour, as if that could be done in isolation from the way these young men – and sometimes young women – experienced the world and understood how it worked. I knew this to be nearly a complete waste of time. It wasn’t the offending and re-offending that needed to be changed – or could be changed – first it was a certain Mindset that these offenders had adopted and adapted to. The same mindset that I and people like me had, born out of a way of life, and a belief system of how the world was, unfair and treated us unfairly. And a sense of being systematically denied opportunities and justice, of being excluded. A Mindset that was embedded in us, that brought us together as such a force, black and white, to overwhelm a Justice system that did not understand or have any empathy with us or really know what to do with us. An old antiquated broken-down discriminatory system. So, in 2013 my paper around the Concept of SDM the Social Deprivation Mindset was published by the British Journal of community Justice. With help from good friend Mike Nellis Emeritus Professor of Criminal and Community Justice University of Strathclyde.
The Concept of SDM is being taken seriously within much of the Criminal Justice System and education. Focussing on Challenging Changing and Managing this SDM Mindset. I would like NAPO to take up the gauntlet. But whatever happens I know that I have been instrumental in a vast contribution to the to the Criminal Justice System. Call me vain but I would love to have the recognition of having changed my life around and all the hard work I have done and what it has achieved.
1 See Understanding the Social Deprivation Mindset.
2 Labelled a Black Villain/ SDM Trevor Hercules.