Most of my time is taken up campaigning for criminal justice reform, especially within our prisons. Rather than tell people what to think, I try to influence how they think. I do this by sharing my experiences and perspective from both the negative and positive aspects of my life. However, in my spare time, I research and write about organised crime (without glorifying it) mainly from an objective historical viewpoint. I am not suggesting whatsoever that I was ever involved in organised crime, however, it is a subject in which I became interested many years ago. For those interested in the articles, they are published on The National Crime Syndicate.
In 1980, I was searching for something, not sure what it was, although looking back maybe an identity. One it took me many years to discover. That same year a prisoner had absconded from HMP Spring Hill open prison (category D) in the village of Grendon Underwood in Buckinghamshire, England. His name was Charlie Richardson, part of who the media dubbed ‘The Torture Gang’. Not only was Charlie stuffed by the judicial system for the alleged crimes he was convicted of, but he had also become an unwelcome guest who gate-crashed his way into the closed world of the establishment. “One” could not have that.
As a kid who lived up to the Mark Twain quote about not letting school get in the way of education, I had plenty of time on my hands. My schooling had become a mixture of if I could be bothered and if ‘they’ let me. ‘They’ eventually gave up on me and booted me out. Not yet 15 years old.
I found I had even more spare time on my hands. There was no internet back then so it was mainly libraries that held the information I needed, most from books but also when I could from microfiche. It became a personal world to me, my thing, which is ironic considering as it led on to ‘Our Thing’ in so many more ways than one.
I had read in places that Charlie Richardson would’ve fitted in with the Mafia. With the who? I had heard of gangsters and villains but not the Mafia. Another world then opened to me. However, life took over. My incarcerations over the years along with death, marriage, fatherhood, divorce and so on slowed then halted my passion.
I still read the books and watched the films but then the questions that remained unanswered in my own mind about the Mafia in America influenced me to look further into the life of Vito Genovese. Through Vito and Charlie, I embarked on an incredible journey of discovery.
In my experience, I found that sometimes in order to know where we are heading we first need to know where we have been. History not only helps to provide those answers, but it can also with a little outside the box thinking provide us with answers to some of today’s problems. Although restorative justice is in use it is a resource that is under-used. A resource that really can make the difference. As history shows us.
My featured image is that of a Sit-Down back in the day. A Sit-Down is called when hard-feelings have surfaced between families within the Mafia, they are also called to sort out hard-feelings between individuals. It would be a difficult figure to approximate as to how many lives were saved due to a Sit-Down. I do have to accept that they were also responsible for a few to lose their lives but it does show that restorative justice can and does work. It cuts down on revenge, restores peace and reduces the number of families who suffer.