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‘Most wanted’ criminal hopes tales of drugs, violence and prison will keep students off the path of destruction

Rick Osborne, once one of Canada’s most wanted criminals, was happy to hear yesterday’s announcement about the closing of the maximum-security Kingston Penitentiary, a limestone waterfront landmark now 175 years old.

“I’m glad,” he said. “There’s too much negative history there and I don’t like the idea of protective custody in institutions anyway. It’s a part of criminal culture and it doesn’t need to exist… If you’re a criminal, you’re a criminal.”

If there’s one thing Osborne knows about, it’s criminals.

At age 21 he was sent to the federal penitentiary system (robbery, weapons, assault, escape custody and narcotics) and went on to spend 24.5 years of his life in 33 different institutions from coast to coast.

He told his story to Prince Edward Collegiate Institute students Friday morning, beginning with an explanation of his first few days at Kingston Pen, known for infamous residents such as Paul Bernardo, Russell Williams, Clifford Olson, Mohammad and Hamed Shafia.

Then he explained how he ended up there in the first place.

Osborne had been bullied for years in grade school but would never  tell anybody believing “men don’t cry”.
He made friends with an older guy who was interested in cars. A week away from his 15th birthday, he agreed to go for a ride with his new friend.

“Looking back, “it was the worst decision I made in my life, thinking that he was my friend.”
Osborne was taken to a house and victimized by a group of heroin addicts who injected him, against his will, with a “speedball” containing methamphetamine and heroin.
“I OD’d. I was as high as a kite and couldn’t talk for over a day. But I felt 10 feet tall. I liked it …”

Even though he felt shame, he went to the street, hung out with two working girls and shared heroin with them.

“I started chasing the dragon. I was hooked.”

He ran away to Miami and moved into the street world of drugs, physical abuse, violence and was cutting (self-mutilation) regularly “to mask emotional pain with physical pain.”

Well along the path of drug addiction and street gang involvement, he soon became a member of one of the world’s largest and most powerful outlaw motorcycle clubs. By age 19 he “was one of the most dangerous men around,” who carried three guns, and consorted with drug dealers, mafia and gangs. By age 20 he had hit “most wanted status”.

“Gangs understand the value of individuals… but they need the individual not to understand the value,” he said.

A lot of gang members, he noted, are not so much criminals as they are drug addicts.

By 1993, Osborne broke free from drug addictions, left the gang affiliations, and was the 17th federal inmate in maximum security in Canadian history to earn a University degree while incarcerated (B.A., Psychology, Queens University).

After leaving prison just over a decade ago, he has dedicated the rest of his life to talking to children and youth about the dangers of gangs, drugs and criminal activity. He helps deliver interventions, such as the Ozzy’s Garage program, where groups of 8 to 12 youth can build custom Motorcycle choppers or 60s and 70s era muscle cars. Truth 4 Teens also facilitates getting his message to as  many teens as possible to address challenges associated with making poor choices and how someone’s life can change in a split second.

His morning visit to PECI, and afternoon talk at Centennial Secondary School in Belleville, was made possible with the co operation of Prince Edward Collegiate Institute, Prince Edward Corrections Advisory Board (PECAB), Prince Edward OPP and Belleville City Police.

“It’s a proactive step to bring real street-level information to the students,” said PEC OPP Const. Kim Guthrie. “He is comfortable discussing his story to make sure his important message is being delivered clearly.”

Filed Under: Hastings & Prince Edward District School BoardLocal NewsPECI - It's a Panther Thing

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