PARKHURST PRISON IN 1985.
I was serving a seven year prison sentence having been convicted of armed robbery. The majority of my sentence had been served at Parkhurst, which at that time was a Category A long-term prison. While serving my sentence I had become very close friends with the Kray family - Reg, Ron, and their elder brother Charlie. I had arrived in prison as a fearless – but essentially disorganised - young criminal and saw Reg Kray as somebody who could help me. He was a very intelligent man and I soon became his pupil, learning how to behave and act like a professional criminal, meeting his friends and contacts and developing my personal skills in readiness for when I would be released.
In many ways I wanted to be like Reg and I learned a huge amount from this man. In another time and place, Reg would have become a highly successful legitimate businessman, I have absolutely no doubt about that. Some of the most important things he taught me were quite simple and might surprise people who have this image of Reg Kray as a cold-hearted killer and nothing more. That was untrue; he could indeed be a very manipulative man, but he also had a very compassionate and generous side to him too. I saw this many times during the 17 years I was privileged to know him. He taught me how to use manipulation to get what I wanted. How to use my imagination and be creative in finding new ways to do things. He also taught me how to socialise with people from all walks of life, how to be polite when it was required, and not-so-polite when that was required too.
He showed me how to wheel and deal in business, how to host events and most importantly, encouraged me to learn as much about the legal system as I could possibly take on board. He knew that as a professional criminal I would inevitably find myself in plenty of courtrooms, and would need a good working knowledge of the law.
When I left prison in 1985 I was ready to take life by the balls, armed with the knowledge and insight that those years spent with Reg had given me. I was no longer disorganised, I was physically fit and I was focused on becoming a top villain. I wanted to be a face, a successful man, and I was now armed with all the contacts and introductions that being part of the Kray family could give me. Reg had nicknamed me ‘Dodger,’ one day telling me, “Steve I will make you a prime mover like the Artful Dodger in Oliver Twist – so that’s your new name. We will call you Dodger.” The nickname was to stick with me.
By August the 22nd 1985 my sentence was almost complete. The following morning I was to be released having served four years and eight months. The night before my release Reg and I had walked around the whole of the wing going from cell to cell saying my goodbyes to the many friends I had made during my time in the prison.I must be honest and say there were times when I had a lump in my throat knowing that I was leaving so many friends behind - in those days there was a close comradeship between the prisoners in Parkhurst.
We all shook hands warmly and firmly like the men we were and I felt oddly proud to have been a part of that strange world.
The following morning at seven, l was let out of the wing gate to make my way to reception and freedom. I will never forget the send-off I received, men were standing up at their cell windows shouting out their goodbyes and wishing me all the best for the future.
There was a chorus of, "Go on Dodger, face of 85" - ‘face of 85’ in our world was the highest compliment a man could receive, meaning I was well on my way to being an established and recognised villain with connections and a future ahead of me in the world of professional crime. Having reached reception and gone through the process of release, I was let through the front side gate of the prison and out into my new-found freedom. My Parkhurst days were over.
I was just 27 years old and I now had a life path ahead of me that would have many twists and turns and much colour.
But my story is not just about a man who lived a life of crime. For the majority of my life I had no idea that I was suffering from acute psychopathy. In fact, I was later to learn, my condition was so acute that when I was finally tested in a psychiatric hospital I scored 36 out o 40 on toe HARE test for psychopathy.
To me this revelation explained so much about me and became the missing piece in the jigsaw that was my life. To me, it helped explain my attitude towards extreme violence – I was fearless of violence and quite prepared to use it without hesitation – one of the most common psychopathic traits. For much of my life I had no empathy at all for the victims of my actions. Yet today I am able to reconcile that regret with knowing that this was not just because I was a bad person but because I was suffering from a severe mental condition that did not allow me to have those types of feelings in the first place. My diagnosis enabled me to enter deep (and difficult) therapy for several years where I learned more about myself and my behaviour each day. It was this diagnosis and therapy of psychopathy that proved to be my route out of a life of serious crime. Ironically it is also the thing that eventually made me understand why myself, Reg and Ron had become such firm friends. We were all acute psychopaths and psychopaths seek out people who are like themselves. Reg said to me once, “There is something about you Steve, you are different from other people, and you have very strong charisma.” What he meant was that I was like him, and he knew that he and Ron were not like many other people. That was our bond.
One of the main reasons I wrote this book was because I now believe that there are hundreds (if not thousands) of young men and women who are needlessly starting a life of crime, or entering the criminal justice system, simply because they are not given the opportunity to have their mental conditions diagnosed or treated. I spent years in prisons being battered and abused by screws, suffering extreme violence and injuries as a result. In return I reacted by dishing that violence back out to society, using my anger to fuel my criminal intentions and causing much heartache and grief to many people along the way. But why did I only get offered proper help at the age of 45, when I was in the advanced stage of my criminal career?
What if I had been diagnosed as a psychopath in borstal? What if I had been offered help or treatment earlier than the age of 45, when I had spent most of my life in and out of criminal justice institutions? I look back at all the years when nobody knew how to handle me, where I was placed in solitary confinement or given huge doses of Largactil (now called Chlorpromazine and known inside since the 1950s as The Liquid Cosh) to subdue me.
This happened to countless other prisoners and continues to this day. Surely my case alone proves there is an argument to invest more resources into helping potential sufferers like me at an early age, before they disappear down the hole that is the criminal world. Once there, it is very hard to come back.
And surely the prison authorities need to do more to help the most troubled offenders find out what is driving their behaviour. If, like me, they are psychopathic, they can be treated sooner, avoiding the harm to society they will inevitably cause when they get out. It is true I was offered some therapy earlier in my career, but all I had to do was refuse and that was the end of it.
What headstrong young man in the grip of psychopathy in its prime and intent on a criminal life would be in a position to turn his back on what he believes is his true future path? Certainly not one who has been given no strong encouragement (or even compulsory intervention) to assess what state of mind he is really in
Maybe the answer is compulsory testing for psychopathy at an early age for those like me, who have shown a repeated pattern of seriously violent and heavy duty criminal behaviour. Who knows? But my story proves there must be a way to improve the current system which is basically to do very little to intervene until all the damage has been done.
So this book is very definitely not about glamorizing a life of crime or getting one up on the system or the establishment. It is a truthful account of the life I led and the highs and lows that came with it. It's also a call to the Government to invest more resources into the early testing, detection and treatment of young people with severe mental health conditions, especially psychopathy and schizophrenia – before it is too late and they enter a life of crime from which they cannot escape.
That is why I have written this book. I hope you find my story interesting – it is certainly different. Let me start from the beginning, 1958 - the year I was born.
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