Turning a life of crime into a force for good

AFTER eight years of prison, Jimmy Dean wants to use his past life to make positive change to the community with his business focused on health and fitness.
INSPIRATION: Jimmy giving a talkINSPIRATION: Jimmy giving a talk
INSPIRATION: Jimmy giving a talk

Turning his back on crime, Jimmy (38) wants to use his experience to show that people can change while promoting health, fitness and wellbeing.

“Society doesn’t allow you to move on,” he says. “That’s why I basically stayed the same for a long time, because you write yourself off.”

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He doesn’t want his past to define him and thinks it’s actually his key to helping people. “I’ve done bad things, which I’m ashamed of, but that’s all part of it. It’s about showing people in recovery that you can still change.”

POWERFUL: Jimmy tells his storyPOWERFUL: Jimmy tells his story
POWERFUL: Jimmy tells his story

Jimmy started Mind over Matter Fitness seven months ago. As well as running personal training sessions and helping people rehabilitate after strokes, the venture champions the Rotherham Recovery Community. It aims to create a space that supports people through problems with drugs, alcohol and mental health.

Jimmy runs the place with his partner Kara Dean (37) and they have already started to make a difference. They recently raised £1,000 for local homeless charity Shiloh and have run events such as a Grinch Grotto which saw Jimmy dressed as the character to raise funds.

They also raised £182 on GoFundMe to help support a homeless man who came through their doors, helping him to find accommodation.

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Having been involved in crime since 14, Jimmy is now being funded by the police to give talks to young people at risk of offending. He hopes to deter them from the path he took.

IN ACTION: Jimmy's gym classIN ACTION: Jimmy's gym class
IN ACTION: Jimmy's gym class

When starting the venture Jimmy’s past was never far behind. His first attempt at renting a space fell apart. When they found out who he was and what he’d done they were no longer happy to do business. Jimmy doesn’t hide from his past though and openly speaks about his offending in talks.

When he was 12 his parents’ relationship broke down and Jimmy moved with his mother from Rotherham to Pitsmoor. He couldn’t get a place in school for over a year and spent most of his time on the streets where he quickly got involved in petty crime.

“We would ring a taxi and then 20 kids would swarm them and rob them. Just to get £10 a day for smokes,” he said. By the time he did get into school he had little time or care for it and at 14 stopped going altogether.

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He highlights that his life changed for the worse when serious criminals started to notice him. “One of these guys pulls up in a nice car. We’ve seen him all the time,

MAYORAL VISIT: Mayor Cllr Robert Taylor, Kara, Jimmy and Mayoress Tracy TaylorMAYORAL VISIT: Mayor Cllr Robert Taylor, Kara, Jimmy and Mayoress Tracy Taylor
MAYORAL VISIT: Mayor Cllr Robert Taylor, Kara, Jimmy and Mayoress Tracy Taylor

“He says ‘oh look after my car for me lads.’ It didn’t need looking after, it was just a reason to say ‘look I’ve got some money for you kid’.”

Jimmy says that was the beginning. In the space of six months he was sent to London carrying bags of drugs and guns and eventually found himself running a record shop that didn’t sell a single record but posed as a front to move drugs all day. He was fully immersed in organised crime.

“Further down the line I started becoming very violent, I could stab someone without even thinking twice. I’ve been to prison for it, so not something I’m proud of now, but I have, it became my way of life.”

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His first prison sentence came at 17 for petty theft. He took a watch off a student outside Sheffield University.

Moving back to Rotherham when he was 18 he continued to sell drugs, with further arrests to follow. He was arrested for attempted murder after stabbing someone with a 12 inch hunting knife.

“You think you’re a gangster, I wanted to be a gangster,” he says.

Things were only made worse with trips to prison. “You go through the prison system which only makes you a harder, tougher person. It’s not a place I recommend for anyone, it absolutely ruins people.

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“I always say that’s why I act quite young because I never grew up, your life stops every time you go to prison. You don’t mature mentally because you’re not living a normal life.”

His biggest sentence came after a police chase which led to five years inside. The cycle was finally broken when his mother was told she had stomach cancer and had six months left to live.

“I had to watch her dwindle and just disappear to nothing. My alcohol intake and cocaine sniffing went through the roof. I didn’t know what to do, I tried killing myself.”

He promised her he would change and he took up work on construction sites and started to turn things around. Working his way up he became a site manager with a specialism in fire protection before leaving construction to focus on his new passion.

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Now he’s taking everything he has learned and putting it into Mind Over Matter. Everything they do is in his mother’s memory and the name of the businesses comes from Jimmy overcoming the turmoil he went through.

Both him and Kara have big plans and are putting funding bids in to grow and be able to employ more staff.

Attached to Mind Over Matter, Jimmy also runs Royal Fresh Foods, utilising his catering qualification gained in prison to provide healthy fresh food. The space is also to become a community hub, a safe space to play pool or use a computer.

Their next upcoming charity event is on April 28, a 5k walk around Thrybergh Country Park for the Shiloh homeless charity.

  • Mind Over Matter, Masbrough Street, Rotherham, S60 1HW. Phone: 07507 601481
  • Link to reservoir walk fundraiser: https://www.justgiving.com/page/momtaf-uk-1707343901897?utm_medium=fundraising&utm_content=page%2Fmomtaf-uk-1707343901897&utm_source=whatsapp&utm_campaign=pfp-whatsap
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