Stevenage’s Dan Gaze opens up about jail time to help young people
A man who changed his life after being in prison shares his story in an effort to help troubled youth realize that they can learn and grow from their mistakes.
Dan Gaze, now 37, says he had a troubled childhood growing up in Stevenage, suffering both physical and mental abuse from an adult.
He was kicked out of his first school at just nine, and later kicked out of high school.
Dan said: “I really believe in behavior as a form of communication and at the time I was trying to communicate that I was struggling, and I would do that by cursing, kicking teachers or me. fleeing. “
As a teenager Dan started boxing and at only 16 he started working as a bouncer, first in Stevenage and then in London. He said: “I shouldn’t have legally gone to clubs, let alone work at the gate. I was put on a pedestal that I shouldn’t have been on and my ego took over.
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“I was also looking for all these models, looking for a father figure.”
One of the men Dan worked with in London was serial killer and sex offender Levi Bellfield, whose crimes include the murder of schoolgirl Millie Dowler in 2002.
“I shook hands with this guy every night and he was obviously killing and raping women,” Dan explained. “It badly affected me.”
One evening in Stevenage, a very drunk Dan got into a violent brawl after being challenged over how he spoke to two women he knew. “I was punched in the face and reacted,” Dan said. “I’m just lucky this guy is still alive – that’s how bad it was. I regret that.
“At that time, my life was not improving and I was getting out of hand. I was going to end up in jail or dead, but I felt untouchable.”
Dan was sentenced to 18 months in prison for actual bodily harm in 2002 and served seven months. “It seemed like a long time to me,” he said. “I was told that I was not allowed to have a cellmate because I had a violent conviction. I sat there and cried my eyes like a baby.
“There were people who were so jealous if you got a letter, they would fight you. There was so much hatred. There were people who tried to hang themselves or cut themselves with razors, and even people who ate their own feces for tobacco.
“For me, prison was the right punishment. It was the wake-up call I needed. I knew I had to change my life at that point. I wanted to help young people, but no one would let me approach a young person. because of the record I had. “
Dan finally got the break he needed and worked with youth clubs. “I couldn’t tell my story to the kids, but I could see a lot of myself in some of them,” he said.
Dan has completely changed his life. “I became a PE teaching assistant at a school,” he explained, “and from there I built my career becoming a PE principal and deputy school principal, in charge of behavior “.
He left his position as Deputy Director in August of last year to start his own business, Dan Gaze Support Service, to provide mentorship to young people.
Dan explained, “I go to schools, I talk to young people and I am a listening ear. I try to help as many young people as possible around Shefford, Hitchin and Stevenage, especially right now with the lockdown. Youth mental health is so crucial. Children have a hard time regulating or finding their emotions and explaining them to us. Behavior is a form of communication and children and youth are crying out for help right now. just need someone to talk to and someone to listen to them with a non-judgmental ear. “
Her advice for troubled youth: “Reach out – there are good people out there who want to support you. Do not be afraid. It’s good to talk. It is so important. Find the positives from the negatives. If you make mistakes. , you can change.”
Her advice to parents: “Catch them doing something right and praise them. Positive reinforcement is so important.”
As for his future plans, Dan said, “I want to help as many people as possible get on the right track. I really want to help the probation service – show young offenders that there are different ways of doing it.
“The journey has only just begun. It will be a twisty road ahead and there will be a few bumps along the way, but I am determined to make it happen.”