Monthly Archives: February 2017

Monday 27th February 2017

Today I went to the gym first thing in the morning and had a good workout and was talking to my two pals, Charlie and Pete. They were wondering what had happened to me because I hadn’t been there since last Wednesday.

I got into work just after 9 and did a lot of work on my field notes, my class and my forthcoming spring colloquium in FAU to take place on 13 March. I had lunch from the Breezeway cafes and worked on until about 5.15pm. Β I also skyped home and spoke to Karen and Alan.

I went back and had my dinner and then drove down the yoga class – it was a really great class this evening, very physically demanding and made me feel great. I then went back to the apartment and did some work reading one of my student’s PhD thesis and some more work on my spring colloquium.

Sunday 26th February 2017

Today I went out for a quick jog around the neighbourhood and then I took my mum to Boca Raton Community Church to experience the service there. I think she quite enjoyed it although perhaps found that it was a somewhat over-exuberant ethos! Bob, who has been so kind to me during my trip and who leads the study group on a wednesday evening, was on stage today with pupils from the Christian school and it was interesting to hear about the work they are involved in there.

We then went back to the cottage and collected Lyn and Drew and drove around to the Original Pancake house and had brunch. Afterwards we went back to the cottage and enjoyed the sunshine for a while. Lyn and Drew left to go to Fort Lauderdale, and I went back to my apartment. I did some work, had my dinner and then worked some more on my class for this week and on my lecture I am giving in Washington DC next week.

Time for another week to begin after a few days off spent with family…

Saturday 25th February 2017

Today was another lovely sunny day. I went out for a quick jog in the morning round the street surrounding the cottage and then cease back for breakfast. I then drove my mum round to the university and showed her my apartment and picked a few things up. we then went to Publix for shopping and came back and had lunch with Lyn.

After lunch I did a few things on the computer then lay in the sun in the back garden. Lyn left for the airport to collect Drew and my mum and I went out for dinner to an oriental restaurant in Glade Road. We came back to the cottage and Lyn and Drew arrived around 9. Had a couple of drinks together.

I was knackered all day after last night’s shift but it’s nice to have some family time now away from my usual routine.

Friday 24th February 2017

Today I spent the morning with my mum and Lyn at the cottage, having breakfast and some time in the sun. I had my lunch and then drove up the coast to do another one of my ridealongs with the police. I conducted some further interviews with the gang unit Detectives and heard more about the gang issues here in Southern Florida – the influence of social media and the way in which the ‘no snitching’ policy within communities makes it a continuing challenge to police the issues. I also learned more about the post-Ferguson effect on the police, the way in which officers feel it has restricted their ability to be proactive and also the surge of public support Β they feel they have had recently within some of the communities in light of some of the previous criticisms. I am learning so much about the gang issues here but also the experiences of police officers at a time of huge transition.

During the ride along the officers took me into some of the other housing projects I had not yet seen and I saw some of the proactive work with gang members in the community where they check for bandanas, colours etc and for potential for ‘beef’ to kick off between rivals. I saw firsthand how quite a few wider members of the community also come up and talk to officers, thank them for the work they are doing and give them encouragement. It was a very interesting evening but I was very late home – after 1am, but having gained some further insights into the gang issues and the policing of the issues.

Tomorrow, hopefully a relaxing day with my family.

Today I arrived in work at 8 and prepared my class for next week and completed my fieldnotes from the visits I did this week. I left just after 11 and went to a yoga class for an hour before then going back to the apartment briefly to have luck and Skype home.

I then drove again to West Palm Beach, this time to meet with Jeane Miranda who id the CEO of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Palm Beach County. I conducted a long interview with her and got some really great insights into the way in which the clubs function, the way the funding streams work and the focus on mentoring of the most disadvantaged young people in the county – linked to the national Boys and Girls Clubs of America. It was very interesting to meet her and hear her perspective on things having been at the front end and seen the club working the other day. These clubs are certainly doing a lot to prevent crime, and around 80% of the kids are from low income families.

I left there at 4pm and drove down the i-95 and straight to the cottage where my mum and sister are staying – they had just arrived a few hours earlier. It was great to see them and we had a drink and a meal together. I’m staying in the cottage tonight which is only 5 minutes from FAU – it’s so nice to be in a house with a front and back door and a garden again – I have really missed that and good to have my own folk around me.

Wednesday 22nd February 2017

Today was a full and busy day. I started the day going to the gym, and then came back to FAU just after 9. I taught my class and again it was a great session – one that the students really enjoyed because we were focusing on the Crips and Bloods in Los Angeles – looking at hw they emerged from the backdrop of the the racial oppression and segregation suffered by African Americans in LA since the turn of the last century. We looked at the way in which the original black ‘clubs’ and the work of the Black Panthers at the time of the civil rights movement of the 1960s were eventually crushed and out of the void left behind emerged the Crips and Bloods. They loved the film ‘Crips and Bloods – Made in America’ and wanted to see more of it. I then shared my research with them from Homeboy Industries and we practiced a mindfulness meditation together – since this is an intervention that is used in Homeboy Industries. we also looked at other interventions that Homeboy Industries uses including group therapy, healing circles and the basic focus on community building, love and tenderness – following the principles promoted by Father Greg Boyle.

I left class and there was a torrential storm – I got completely soaked as I crossed campus to the breezeway to buy lunch and the woman in the shop was so concerned about me she gave me a towel to dry off and let me borrow her umbrella – so kind! I then drove up to West Palm Beach, and the drive up there was not easy with rain pounding off the highway. The drivers are not used to that kind of rain and were all driving cautiously — they should see it in Scotland, this was just like a normal day in Glasgow!

I visited the Youth Empowerment Centre in WPB, where I met and interviewed the Director of the Neighbourhood Accountability Board and the Director of the Juvenile Justice Department in the city. I also got to meet a young juvenile who was visiting the complex with his dad and who has been part of the interventions that are put in place to prevent juveniles from going into the criminal justice system. I learned a lot about these interventions, many of which have a big focus on restorative justice and are helping young kids to stay out of the system. In many ways it reminded me of our own Whole System Approach in Scotland, but this was the first time I had come across this in the USA – it seems to be an innovative set of interventions based around strong partnership work between the police, the juvenile justice department and various other partners and designed to prevent the long-term consequences of juveniles picking up felonies.

I left the initiative inspired once more. I received a text on the way out from my sister Lyn to say that she and my mum had landed in Orlando – so, at last, part of my family will be with me tomorrow …



Tuesday 21st February 2017

Today I had a very busy day. I spent the morning at FAU, and conducted a FaceTime interview with an ex-gang member who I had managed to access through the social worker who works with the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s office. It was very interesting to hear all about his life story, what got him into the gangs and what led him back out of the lifestyle. I also worked on various other things and then left the office just after 12 to drive to West Palm Beach.

This afternoon I visited the Boys and Girls Club of Palm Beach County to see the work they are doing with children and young people. I arrived there just after 1pm and did not leave until 8.15pm this evening! The whole afternoon and evening was hectic with so many kids around doing different things (around 300 kids are enrolled in the club) – there was so much to see and hear about. I observed some of the work going on with juniors (aged 9-12) and it was great fun being in among these kids – they asked me loads of questions about who I was and why I was there and where I was from. It took me back to my days in the classroom. I then observed some of the wider work going on with older kids, which included a large scale basketball game today, kids out trimming trees in the gardens, kids working on their homework and of other playing computer games etc. The club is basically an after-school club but some of the kids – after having had a full day at school be inning at 8am – are bussed to the club at 2pm and do not get picked up by their parents until 8pm, every day. Lots of them are disadvantaged and the really important work going on there is the relationship-building and counselling work by the young team of staff. The staff were absolutely fabulous and gave me lots of insights into the challenges the young people face and the work they do to try and support them. Basically the club acts as a prevention initiative – preventing some of these young people from going down the pathways into crime. I conducted interviews with the head of the club, Shamus Gordon (who was born in London and lived in Jamaica for many years before coming to Florida), and four of the staff. I have also arranged to come back and conduct some focus groups with young people once I have parental consent (most of them here are under 18).

I drove back down the i-95 at 8.30 and finally managed to get something to eat at 9pm. It was a really busy day but a very interesting one where I got lots of insights.

Monday 20th February 2017

I began the day by training in the gym. It was a strange experience because the lights had failed and so the entire gym was in darkness, but everyone was allowed to train nonetheless – I have never had the experience of training in the dark before so it was a bit weird!

I drove back and got into the office for 9. I spent the day working on the third chapter of my book, pulling together the edits and doing the references. It is almost there – just a final pruning to cut the words back, and that means I am ahead of schedule with the book as I had given myself another two weeks for this chapter – but good to get it out the way before my mum and sister come so I can relax. Also, I need to prepare my lecture for George Mason University next week. I also spent time making arrangements with a reformed gang member who has agreed to be interviewed – I will do a telephone interview with him via FaceTime tomorrow.

Mid-morning I went out for a coffee to Starbucks. As I was crossing the campus I came across a very unusual public display all about abortion. There were rather grotesque images on some of the pictures, and the main guy who had brought the display to campus approached me on the way over to ask me my opinion about the issue. The display had been erected by an organisation called the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform. I didn’t really want to get into a debate about the issue of abortion in the middle of the campus when I was just on my way for a coffee, but the guy soon told me his opinion – which was very conservative – basically that all forms of abortion are a breach of human rights. In as diplomatic a way as possible I said to him that it was an ‘interesting debate’ and managed to get away from him! It struck me as a very unusual campaign to be launched on a university campus, but when I came back across I noticed that some students from FAU had begun mounting a very peaceful counter-protest – there were some young women with signs reading ‘My body – my choice’. It was interesting to see this type of organisation present and this type of debate and counter-protest going on on the campus and something we just do not see happening on our own campuses in Scotland.

I had a full and very busy day working on my writing and preparing for my fieldwork today and I feel that I have caught up with myself a little bit. I had a Skype call with Karen and Alan and then I left work at 5 and went back and had dinner. After that, I went round to the yoga centre and had a very good yoga practice – only three people there, and the practices were challenging but relaxing. I left feeling very good!

Tomorrow I have my first interview with a reformed gang member here and then a visit to West Palm Beach.

Sunday 19th February 2017

Today I began the day be going to the church that I have been enjoying being a part of so much – Boca Raton Community Church. As always the hymns were rousing and the preaching was inspiring. Today there were around what looked like 70-80 students who are young people attached the church, in the congregation. The youth pastor delivered part of the message. Again it occurred to me that it would be amazing if we could attract this many young people into our churches in Scotland.

I left and came back and had lunch then spent most of the afternoon working – I wanted to progress my latest book chapter and do more work on my class. The book chapter is almost ready, just needing some edits, pruning and reference list added – and i figured it would be good to progress it further this weekend so that I can have time with my mum and sister next weekend. I skyped home and then went out to the pool for an hour before dinner. After dinner more work on the chapter and I also managed to clean the apartment a little today and do some washing.

This week is a busy week with lots of fieldwork ahead – and then the arrival of my mum and sister on Thursday. It will be good to have some of my own family around.

Saturday 18th February 2017

Today I went for a morning run around the campus and then got ready and went for breakfast at the Original Pancake House – my Saturday morning treat! I then drove to Walmart and bought some beach shorts and then went back to campus.

I spent a couple of hours working on editing the latest chapter in my book, since I am conscious that I have a busy week ahead and wont have too much time on it in the days to come. It was quite cloudy today in any case so not really a day for the sunshine. I then got ready and drove to the house of one of my colleagues, Sigal Altman, who was hosting a social event this evening from 5pm. Sigal is in the office next door to me and is such a nice person and a great colleague. She is originally from Venizuela, with her parents originating in Israel. she and her husband Brian, who is a professional tennis pro, live in Boynton Beach just up the coast. There were lots of people there from work – John, Lincoln, Vaugh, Cassandra, Lisa and their partners and Vaugn also had his kids with him. It was great to meet Sigal’s parents who are so nice and were so excited to meet me, having travelled around Scotland last autumn going to Edinburgh and up to Inverness. I had a good political discussion with her dad about Brexit and Scottish independence! I also met Sigal’s husband who is a great laugh and his mother who was also there. It was a very sociable occasion, and lots of nice food. I commented on how great I think it is that all of the staff socialise together and they all know each other’s partners and families. I think that is a really good way to create a really collaborative and supportive work ethos, and ensures that the job does not become too serious all the time. I am so grateful to be part of the Criminology and Criminal Justice ‘family’ at FAU, even for just a short while.

I left around 8.30 and drove back down the road.