Darryl’s story shows us the links between childhood poverty and crime, and the importance of positive rehabilitation.
Darryl grew up in Oldham. His mum left home when he was just 4 weeks old, “She just lost interest and stopped coming to see us not long after that. Grandma told me it was because Mum wanted a girl, and I was a boy”, he remembers. “I hardly ever saw her after that. Never at all in my teenage years”. His father had to bring up Darryl and his two older sisters on his own, and although there was always food on the table, it was a struggle to buy anything extra with his dad’s wages from packing in a warehouse.
Darryl had a rough and hard youth. “I was excluded loads of times from school, getting into trouble for stuff like fighting and verbally abusing staff. I did it all to get attention. To prove I could do things”. Darryl was eventually expelled. “Behind all of this was money.
I’ve always known poverty from looking at all those things I never had. Having money, and everything you want. We didn’t live like that. We were in a situation where we had nothing.”
“I always wanted money. To buy things I didn’t have. It started off petty, thieving a CD from the shop. Trespass and probably some criminal damage too”. But then he fell into company with people who just drank and did drugs all day. “We ended up doing a lot of drugs, drinking, and getting caught in drug dealing. It made me even more desperate for money. And the crimes started getting more serious.” Darryl got involved in a spat with other lads in town, and was sent to prison for three and a half years.
Darryl was in prison for a year and a half, before being released.
However, he broke his curfew by returning to drinking, and was sent back to prison for a further year and a half. But he says, “It’s not that everyone in prison was poor, or grew up without much, there was a wide range of us. But in prison there was poverty of spirit. I got worse in there. It didn’t help me. My mental health got worse. I was angry. Looking back, I wasn’t ready to come out.” Darryl then spent several years in a secure psychiatric hospital, where he “picked up a lot of skills from psychology and psychotherapy which have helped me enormously to return to a normal life.”
Darryl thinks about what poverty means for him. “Nowadays people who have no money are homeless. I guess it’s a change in society. In my time, it was crime. You would just turn to crime to get money.”
“I’m happy I did those 5 years in hospital. If I was just in there for a couple of years, I wouldn’t have learnt all that I have. I picked up skills from the psychology and psychotherapy classes. People might think I’m daft, but I picked up a lot.”
Everyone in hospital said to me ‘you’re never getting out’, meaning that I would never turn my life around. But I did and if I can do it, anyone can. Now I want to help others.
Darryl has made a success of his life since leaving hospital. He moved from 24/7 supervision, to being supported from a distance, for just 6 hours a week. He spent a long time volunteering in the kitchen at Back on Track, a Manchester charity that enables disadvantaged adults to make lasting, positive changes in their lives.
Darryl has a passion for cooking and performing arts, and has been singing with Streetwise Opera, a choir that works with individuals with experience of homelessness. He is now studying performing arts at college, and will soon start as a volunteer with Neshomo, befriending long term mentally ill people in the Greater Manchester Jewish community.
Some studies find a strong and direct relationship between socioeconomic status and offending, particularly in respect of the impact of childhood poverty and the effects of growing up poor on persistent youth offending (Braithwaite, 1981; Jarjoura et al 2002; Hay and Forrest, 2009; Bjerk, 2007).
Interview carried out by Peter Cruickshank for Greater Manchester Poverty Action’s Beyond Poverty report