My first interviewee, who is very courageous to be interviewed by a newcomer in doing interviews (!), is David Breakspear.
I met David on Twitter not long ago while I was doing one of my “drive-by” Tweets about Pret that I tend to do. I do these Tweets where I post to someone who responds to a Pret related post, in this case it was about Pret employing former prisoners, not knowing David at the time. But he wasn’t one of the employees recruited by Pret, he just commented on it.
I comment on Pret related Tweets and then move on, as I always try to reach as many people as I can, not being a newspaper that could reach the masses. I am basically going from “door to door” like a politician who’s running for office. But what I am “running” for is sharing my and others’ story with Pret.
From the get go he was super supportive and gives me a lot of insight as he draws from immense life experience. I am also very encouraged by his attitude and how he learns to tackle issues! I appreciate and am inspired by his spirit!
Enough said, here’s the interview.
“Late Night Girl”: Please introduce yourself and what you do, be it in occupation or private, even if you are out of a job it is not about a status, but your passion for whatever your hobby, campaign or story is about:
Hi, my name is David Breakspear, I’ll be celebrating my fiftieth in September. Since the age of 10 I had been a part of the criminal justice system. The typical route of care to prison. I finally broke the chain in 2017 when I was released from what I fully intend to be my final visit to HMP as a prisoner. In April this year my license from prison ended, as did my involvement, for the first time in nearly 40 years, with the criminal justice system. I am now a freelance writer, blogger and an active campaigner for prison, criminal justice and social reform.
LNG: How would you describe yourself in one word?
LNG: What quote, that inspires you, has either changed your life or even helped you transform it into action?
DB: “You only have control over your own mind not outside events, realise this and you will find strength.” I can’t remember who said it.
LNG: Biggest regret?
DB: It’s not that I don’t have any regrets, it’s that I can’t have any regrets. I am the best person right now that I have ever been, that is down to my life that I led, not despite it. Any change to my past would’ve affected my future.
LNG: Biggest success or something you’re proud of, next to your children of course, can be anything from occupational or private, something you still would smile about on your last day?
DB: This is an easy one if it is one to make me smile. On Wednesday 22nd May 2007, an episode of ‘The Weakest Link’ was shown on BBC2. It was one that I was not only in, but one I also ended up winning. I walked away with £2,090.
LNG: Apart from the usual things like ethics, honesty, hard work etc. what piece of advise would you give to anyone who is thinking of going into the activity you are/were involved in? What headaches or pitfalls would you tell them they can avoid?
DB: Plenty of patience and a thick skin. The criminal justice system moves at the rate of a glacier, you need the patience of a Saint sometimes or it can frustrate the life out of you. There are plenty of people willing to shoot you down whenever you campaign in an area that is unpopular so being thick skinned really helps.
LNG: What was the most challenging experience you’ve ever had, be it personal or professional, that you overcame and went through in one piece so-to-speak or if you got broken, recovered again?
DB: One that continues, my mental health disorders. Although, I no longer allow them to define me. I’ve learnt how to control them without the necessity of medication. Mind over matter if you like.
LNG: What, if at all, would you do differently in this challenge now in hindsight?
DB: I would’ve taken control earlier, you must know what you are working with. My diagnoses didn’t happen until 2010.
LNG: If you were invited to do a TED Talk, what would be the subject you would talk about?
DB: I’ve applied to be at a TEDx talk in November and am awaiting a decision very soon. If I’m successful, the talk will be about a part of my journey.
LNG: What is your definition of success?
DB: That it is subjective, and we view it in our own perspective. To some, just waking up in the morning is success, whereas, someone else may think getting out of bed for £1,000 an hour is their benchmark of success.
LNG: What was a time or situation where you felt like giving up, but found a way to keep going?
DB: I made a serious attempt on my own life while serving in prison in January 2009. I hadn’t changed my mind, in fact, I was angry when I came through. A fellow prisoner had raised the alarm. Once I had calmed down, and with a bit of therapy, concluded it isn’t my time to go.
LNG: When is the time to indeed give up or let go?
DB: Another saying I love is “I didn’t fail because I didn’t achieve what I wanted, I failed because I gave up trying”. So, in answer to your question, never.
LNG: In one word, how do you define leadership:
DB: Overseeing you!
LNG: Favourite or most meaningful book to you and why? If it is hard to choose one, then the last or most recent book that really meant something to you or something that clicked:
DB: This is an extremely difficult question to answer, I recently blogged about the books that had a profound effect on my life, however, if I put my finger on one it would be ‘The Secret’ by Rhonda Byrne. So simple really.
LNG: If you could change a pet peeve of yours, what would it be?
DB: Far too many to list, I’m always trying to improve my weak areas. I do wish I could narrate as well as I write.
LNG: What is the positive thing people keep saying about you?
DB: That I’ve remained true to my words with actions.
LNG: Outside your occupation or campaign, and again next to your family, what is your great passion when off work?
DB: It’s a bit of a busman’s holiday really. My hobby is writing about organised crime. I write for the largest Mafia history website National Crime Syndicate (www.nationalcrimesyndicate.com). I do like the weekends to be quiet though. At home with my missus Kelly, our two dogs; Frankie, he’s a Staffie and Bonnie, she’s a West Highland Terrier (Westie) plus our cat Millie.
LNG: What is the core “mission” of your occupation or campaign?
DB: Change and reform.
LNG: Favourite meal and drink apart from mama’s cooking!!
DB: Roast dinner, any meat. I hardly drink alcohol these days, so I normally have diet coke with my meal (all other brands of diet cola are available hahahaha!)
LNG: Favourite film or theater play:
DB: Scum (Link to IMDB)
LNG: Favourite artist (famous or not, any artist you love):
DB: Not many people will know who, plus it is literally recent, but someone called Phil Forder. He can be found on Twitter. I’m hoping he will exhibit soon. I love his work.
LNG: Favourite song or piece of music:
DB: Mozart: rondo in E minor for flute and piano.
LNG: Favourite quote:
DB: “Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.” – Buddha
LNG: Which person, alive or already passed, that you have never met would you love to have a conversation with, or even collaborate on a cause, art, work situation? NO selfies allowed! A one-off meeting between you and them!
DB: Oscar Wilde so that I can ask him about the ‘Ballad of Reading Gaol’, along with ‘The Listener’ by Walter de La Mare, they are my favourite poems.
LNG: An open segment: Anything you like to mention about anything that’s important to you, no matter if you covered it already or anything that you have not mentioned, can be pointing out another website or a cause people need to know about from you or others, anything. It can even be a list of things and sites, there’s no limit, anything you want to share:
DB: I currently use a #, it’s #TogetherWeCan, because that is the only way that we can ever truly reform the system. Together. Prison is a part of our society; therefore, our society should care about their prisoners. We all make mistakes, however, should then therefore, that mean we can no longer contribute to society. The ban on prisoners voting, I believe, answers that!
Thank you, David!
One of my own favourite quotes by David from his writings – About prison reform:
»Let’s be honest, you wouldn’t want to spend all your money on a washing machine only to keep having to send it back to the warehouse every now and then, because it didn’t work properly to begin with and the warehouse keep sending it back without doing anything different to it. But! That is exactly what is happening with our fellow citizens who find themselves in prison. Man, woman and/or child.« – David Breakspear
David’s Twitter: @Areformedman
Please also visit the Shannon Trust that David is involved in, an organisation supporting prisoners who support prisoners. www.shannontrust.org.uk
David shares on the experience of his talk in the House of Commons on his blog entry: “A Day to Remember” and can be heard in his House of Commons speech in this audio: “Evidence Week – Shannon Trust”
David also has regular chats with a retired cop, Gary Jenkins from Kansas City, MO on YouTube. These chats are very insightful where they share on similarities in police work and how criminals operate, as well as similarities and differences in the legal system in the UK compared to the U.S.
David Breakspear and Gary Jenkins on “Gangland Wire”
David’s and other interviews are listed on Interviews and Life Stories.
I worked at Pret A Manger for almost 10 years and survived systemic workplace bullying during bereavement that involved HR, the top leadership, HQ and even the CEO Clive Schlee. I declined 4 settlement offers if I am silent about my ordeal. But I rather starve and speak out to help others. For an overview of important blog entries of my experience with Pret, please visit “My Ordeal with Pret A Manger”. The little arrow to the right next to each heading will lead directly to the post.
I also tell my story for the first time verbally in this >>> podcast interview based in California, and wrote an article in the Scottish Left Review.
Thank you for reading/listening.
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