Dean Lloyd has a quote that perfectly captures his outlook on life: “When a flower doesn’t bloom, you fix the environment which it grows in, not the flower.”

Dean, the 195th person I’ve met on my quest to have lunch with 500 strangers, is a criminal consultant who is working to break the generational cycle in which some children from disadvantaged circumstances turn to crime … go to prison … struggle to reintegrate into mainstream society … and then raise children in disadvantaged circumstances.

When a crime is committed, our instinct is to focus on the flower – to hope the offender will get punished and reformed in prison.

However, Dean is convinced that most people who get incarcerated leave prison in worse shape than they entered. That’s why he believes we need to focus not on the flower but its environment – to improve the troubled communities where many of these people are raised.

Dean speaks from experience. He actually had a positive childhood, but after falling in with the wrong crowd, he turned to heroin, committed crimes to feed his addiction, and then wound up in prison. 

After being released, Dean spent a decade working in his father’s real estate business, where he did very well. Ultimately, though, the work felt meaningless, so Dean decided to switch to the community sector. But despite his success in real estate, Dean struggled to find employment because of his criminal record.

For people who have a worse CV and come from a minority background, the struggle is even harder.

What’s the solution? Fixing the environment, not the flower, says Dean.