Dwayne's story

Dwayne Photo


At four-years-old, Dwayne's dad left, leaving his mum struggling to cope with three children on her own.

Dwayne remembers feeling neglected, unloved and left to fend for himself.

“When dad left, mum aired her anger out on me," he said. "It’s like I reminded her of my dad. I didn’t feel loved or wanted as child.” 

Dwayne’s mum met another man whom she moved into the family home. He was known as the local drug dealer, and Dwayne would often see the drug dealing happening in the house. He also witnessed his mum being emotionally and physically abused.

Living surrounded by crime became normal for Dwayne, as everyone around him seemed to be involved in crime in some capacity. At six-years-old, Dwayne began hanging around with older boys on his estate, and soon started getting involved in crime himself.

“I didn’t feel loved or looked after at home," he said. "So being part of the elders gave me that sense of belonging. I was just six when I started doing crime. I was asked to help with theft, burglary and drug runs. This continued right up to when I was a teenager, and with the crime came drugs. By 13, I was doing crack cocaine. I’d use it to number my childhood trauma.”

One of the biggest traumas of Dwayne's childhood was seeing his mother sent to prison. 

“When I was 8, I remember mum taking us to court with her. She was sentenced to prison, and I remember watching her being taken away. There was no family who could look after me and my two-younger sisters, so we were taken by social services.”

At 13-years-old, Dwayne received his first Detention Training Order, and at 15 he went to Feltham Young Offenders Institution. As soon as Dwayne came out of Feltham, he continued to commit crime, and the cycle continued. He spent seventeen years in and out of prison, being convicted, for thefts, robberies, drug dealing and possession of a firearm. Dwayne’s cocaine use intensified too, and he found himself the target of rival gangs.

“I’ve been shot, stabbed, and chopped in the head with a machete. I’ve been paralyzed on my left, scars all over my body, I could have been killed so many times, but I didn’t care about my own life let alone anyone else’s. Going in and out of prison didn’t scare me either, it was my second home as a teenager.”

However, when he went to prison for the final time in his late twenties, things changed for Dwayne. He started to meditate and took an interest in spirituality. He started reflecting about what he’d been through and what he’d done, and knew he wanted a better life.

“When I went to prison that final time, I was at rock bottom," he said. "I didn’t care what happened to me.  I’d just met my now wife, Mel, but neither of us were in a place to make things work. If I carried on as I was, I would have destroyed us both. However, that last time in prison, I started healing myself, becoming conscious and making different choices.”

Dwayne finally started to see a future, and an opportunity to move away from a life of crime and drugs. He also began helping fellow prisoners and encouraging them to open up and deal with their traumas. It was this which made Dwayne realise he had gift for helping others.

Dwayne turned his back on crime and drugs, and just a few weeks after being released, he and Mel married, and went on to set up two social enterprises that work with the Ministry of Justice, local authorities, councils, schools, social services, and other charities to support vulnerable families and young people. 

Dwayne has shared his story as part of Causeway’s Breaking Cycles: Building Lives campaign.  Sign up to Causeway’s free newsletter to stay up-to-date with our crime reduction work and campaigns: www.bit.ly/CausewayNewsletter