3,Let me introduce myself. I am James Daniel McMullen. Age 54. Sadly for over 40 years, I have spent time in one form of institution or another. Serving various sentences in and around Britain’s judicial system. These ranged from Detention Centre, 3 Months short sharp shock. Borstal Training, 6-2 years.Young Prisoner Sentences, (YPS) Numerous times. Youth Offender Institute (YOI) Numerous sentences. Her Majesties Prison Service (HMPS) 2yr, 4yr, 5yr, & 12 year sentences. This is not something that comes second nature to me, this really is my life and it comes first nature to me. Furthermore, I haven’t worked in these environments for 30 odd years, neither am I an academic… It has been my home, in a strange sense the whole judicial system would become my parents and family. I have lived and struggled with neglect, mental health, pain, fear, vulnerability depression, loneliness and isolation within these walls and environments for more than 40 years…
I’m originally from Liverpool. However when I was 6 years old my mother moved us to London to escape my fathers grasp and also escaping the violence that he inflicted upon us. I grew up in Harlesden, North West London. Largely populated by African Caribbean, Asian and second generation white Irish Gangs. NW London has always been very cosmopolitan and diverse in its nature. The Notting Hill Carnival was only a mile up the road from where our Gang resided. Moreover around the 80s Gangs had larger areas to cover and is not like the Postcode Gang Culture that we have in Britain today. However the whole concept and dynamics of Gangs have never changed. All that has happened is that people have more access to media and maybe guns and knives are more fashionable today but, when I was younger they too was also freely available.
Furthermore, they were used for more criminal activity than murder. Armed robbery and aggravated burglaries’ were more the style and fashion of the 80s & 90s than murder. Although weapons were used quite largely in gang violence too. Sadly for to my own preservation, there are certain things that cannot be disclosed due to legalities… I suppose I never had the best of starts in life, as I come from a very dysfunctional family, lots of domestic violence and parents that were involved in criminality (in one form or another) Mother a pick-pocket and my father an enforcer.
So from a very early age, I quickly learnt’ that I could gain from being violent and dishonest. Gang culture seemed to evolve a round me, even at a very early age, I would tend to hang round with people older than myself. I spent some short periods of being in care when I was very little, however at 14, I was sentenced to 3 months Detention Centre, this was a very brutal regime where children like myself were verbally and physically abused in a military style manner. This was known as the short sharp shock and this only made me much worse. As even people in authority was abusing me now. I came out of there feeling very resentful of authority and society as a whole and continued on with my life of drugs and crime. My status amongst other criminals and gang members enhanced and shortly after this, I was given 6-months to 2 years Borstal training. The vicious circle I was now in was well under way. I went on to serve various prison sentences after this, from 4 months, 5 months, 8 months, 1 year, 2 years 2 and half years. 4years, 5yrs and a 12 year sentence.
My freedom from the age of 14 was near non-existent as I continued this lifestyle of drugs and crime. If the prison system didn’t have me, or the psychiatric units caused by my mental health, then my gang did. So I really had no freedom at all. At the age of 32, I received a very long prison sentence (12yrs). Over the years my gang, along with my lifestyle had become irrational and chaotic. There were lots of violence and I was involved in the whole drug culture of Kings Cross and the West-End of London. I started to use heroin and I would do almost anything to protect and fund my gang, every single minute of every single day was dedicated to my gang. Membership to a gang was crucial to me, as I had turned over that many people my life was constantly in danger. As you are now aware, for over 40 years I was involved in gangs, drugs, guns, knives and violence.
I was sentenced at the Central Criminal Court (old bailey) to 12 years imprisonment for Attempted Murder and spent 9 years 2 months in prison on that sentence alone. After a very short period of time from being released from the 12 year sentence, I was sentenced again to a further 5 years for more violent crimes (Car Jackings). Then another 5 years for Arson with being wreckless. This is the reality of making the wrong decisions and being involved in criminality. Furthermore, being the youngest of a family that was very chaotic & dysfunctional my family had this strange kind of loyalty to protect me and this then encompassed their misplaced understanding that being the youngest I had to be protected and shielded from any form of reality. This then went deeper and for many of years my two sisters and brother really believed that they had to do my thinking for me.
Moreover, this continued into my adulthood. Sadly, although they may have thought that they was doing the right thing, this was very detrimental to me. This coupled with everything else in my childhood, I never learn’t to think for my self until I was in my 30s. Another downfall of this was emotional, I never had the opportunity to grow emotionally and deal with everyday live. Living through relationships and the stress and strains of every day life. This was coupled with spending years in institutions from an early age, refaians you from growing maturely and emotionally. Institutional life stunts your experience of every day lifestyles of relationships. This is stopped once you are in jail. You stop growing as you are not living…
My good friend, Everton, was stabbed to death in a crack house by a 16 yr old. My mate Bruce was kicked to death on the Harrow Rd. My best mate was lured by a rival gang’s girl and his drink was spiked and died of an overdose. Numerous gang members I have personally known have been fooled, tricked and even lured to their deaths. Unfortunately, so many have died that where involved in the drug culture, it really does begger believe. Moreover, being heavily involved in the whole world of Guns, Knives, Gangs, violence prisons and institutions, I saw hear first hand of the ruthlessness that one Gang will go to take another out of the equation. Murder is rife in the world of drugs and crime. During the 70s and in to the 80s I ran with the Kensal Green Gang. This was largely made up of kids from the surrounding streets and was a quite a wide and diverse community I always seemed to make friends with the local kids who were bunking off school and getting into some kind of mischief.
The stealing out of shops followed this. Other children use to think it was great that my parents didn’t force me to go to school. A lot of this was due to us moving around quite a lot and unfortunately for me, not being able to read and write had some serious affects in my later life. “Anyone who’s lived in one will know that regardless of what you do – if you’re a student or a worker, or you sit on your ass smoking weed all day – some people in the community will want to transform you into one of them. I don’t mean they will rob you or mug you, but by being friendly and showing you respect, it leads you to think you have things in common with them. Offering a young person up to a couple of hundred pound a day to do some drug running is to tempting for these young people that come from financially deprived areas and homes. I would find myself amongst the local gangs and by the age of twelve, I was smoking cannabis and drinking alcohol. Over the years this got worse and so did my criminality, I moved on to stealing cars and found myself in fights quite regular.
At 14, I went to buy a draw of some guys I had gotten to know, but they were waiting for their parcel to be dropped. So they told me to hang around, as it would not be too long. One of the guys passed me a spliff they were smoking, being young and really vulnerable and wanting to be accepted, I took it…. The sad thing about this was that, it was a heroin spliff…
WHAT CANNOT SPEAK, CANNOT LIE…
Before this experience, I always thought smack to be a scum bags choice of drug and really believed that I would never involve myself in this kind of circle. Although this post has only been a snippet of what is to question and explore. The whole experience and outlook of drugs, crime, gangs, guns, knives and crime. gangs, anti-social behaviour and drugs go hand in hand. This really is a natural progression… I had taken a bite of the forbidden fruit and over a very short space of time, I was involved in the whole drug and alcohol scene. My crimes became more frequent and more serious. Some time during my mid 20s, I slipped into using crack and this was just another natural progression for me and the lifestyle of drugs and crime. In all the circumstances not many gang members reach the age I am now, although I could look after myself, it is only through pure luck and chance, that I’m alive today. I currently live a life that is positive and constructive, money and gangs are not my god today. I’m lucky… I am in a position where I can try and give back to society,what I had previously taken ou