Today I went to the gym first and then came back to campus and spent the day organising fieldwork trips for next week, finishing my preparation for next week’s class then working on my book. I had lunch from one of the cafes on campus where they make some great sandwiches while you wait, and I also skyped home and talked to Karen and Alan.
I left work at 5 and went back to the apartment and had my dinner and then drove round to the welcome reception that Lisa and the other Graduate students had arranged for me this evening at Lisa’s house, which is just a 15 minute drive from campus. It was a really great evening – Lisa had made lots of food and drinks and there were quite a few of the Graduate students there, one of my undergradatue students and Audrey from the school office and her husband. It was so nice of them to arrange this for me – we had some great chat and they insisted that I did nothing to help all evening.
I got back to the apartment at midnight. Another social event to come tomorrow evening!
Today I went into work for 8 and spent most of the day working on my book on ‘Gangs and Spirituality’ – I was trying to get as much of chapter 3 written as possible, and managed to add 2500 words to what I already have so only need to do edits it all, refine the introduction and then add a conclusion next week. That will be two chapters down with one to go while I am out here. Meanwhile, the proofs for my other book, ‘Young people and Social Control’ are on the way – they should be with me by 16th March so that’s exciting.
At 10.30 I had a Skype call back to UWS for a mock viva examination. I used web ex to connect with my colleagues in the committee room on Ayr campus and it was good to see them. I then walked outside to go and get lunch and it felt like I had changed TV channels – having felt that I was ‘virtually’ in Scotland for an hour, I was thrown right back into America when i saw all the students crossing the campus on skateboards. It’s such a great way for them to get around – but I just can’t see it working in Scotland, with everyone ending up drenched in the rain!
I worked solidly on the book until about 4.30 and then skyped home to Karen and Alan. I walked back across the apartment and then had a skype call with my mum before having my dinner. She and my sister will be here one week from now – it;s hard to believe that it is mid-February already. After dinner, I drove down the road to the yoga class – Keshava, the yoga teacher, was in good form – he has a good sense of humour and it very helpful in the class, making shire that everyone does the right moves and giving people a hand if they get lost which I do from time to time! I felt very relaxed when I came out, and went down to Publix to buy a few things to take with me to the two social events I am going to over the next couple of evenings. I got back about 9pm.
Today I began the day in the gym doing my usual wednesday session. I went back into work just after 9 and Matt Canavan, the IT guy, came and fixed a webcam to my PC so that i can use Webex to engage in a mock PhD viva tomorrow at UWS – it is amazing how the world is made so much smaller with technology these days.
I skyped home and then I went to teach my class at 11. Today I introduced the students to the concept of hegemonic masculinity and how the way in which masculinity is interpreted and applied in given cultural contexts can lead to violence. I applied this to gangs, and the way in which psycho-social theories of criminal desistance suggest that moving away from violent crime can sometimes be linked to offenders making a fundamental shift in how they interpret their own masculine identity. I shared my work from Denmark with them, and introduced them to Comeback – the boxing rehabilitation programme just outside Copenhagen run by good friend and former Danish boxer Paul Kellberg. Through sharing insights from the the ex-gang members who have engaged in the programme, I was able to share the way in which desistance can often be brought about by supporting male offenders to re-construct their masculine identities but the way in which boxing metaphors were used in the Comeback programme to nurture this process. It was again quite surreal showing the DVD of Paul and the Comeback programme in Denmark, where I have spent so much time, to the USA students here. After this, we turned towards female gang members – and the Graduate students led this session, sharing insights from the annotated bibliographies they have been constructing. They all did really well and presented some really interesting insights from international research into the reasons young women join gangs and what type of interventions might support them best in leaving the gangs. We finished the session by engaging in seminar discussions about the type of programmes that might work best for supporting female gang members’ criminal desistance. it was another great session, and a group of us went for coffee to Starbucks during break again.
Two of the graduate students, Lisa and Daniele, have arranged a welcome drinks reception for me this Friday evening in Lisa’s house and have invited the staff from the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice and the undergraduates from my class along. This is such a nice gesture and I am looking forward to it.
I did some more work in the afternoon and then went home and after dinner I went round to the men’s study group in the church – the first time I have been able to go for a few weeks. It was a really nice session – we talked about Galations 4: 1-18 and Bob led our group again as always for the discussion. We talked about the way in which we move from being a slave to the world’s influences to being a son of God when we accept him into our lives. I talked to to Bob and the rest of the group about how blessed I feel having found this church and the people in it during my time here – and that I do believe that I was sent here to Boca Raton for more than one reason, and finding this church and the support it has given me was one of them.
I started the day slightly later, getting up at 8 and leaving the apartment an hour later to drive up to West Palm Beach. Today I returned to the outlying office of the Detectives from Palm Beach Sheriff who I worked with last week. Today I completed my interview with Lt Terrence Carn, who is in charge of the gang unit – a very interesting, African American officer who has over 20 years of experience and has already done a Masters degree and has aspirations to do a PhD. He has been very helpful to me and is very easy to get along with once you get to know him. I also interviewed Marcia Bahia , who is the Gang Prevention Coordinator within the Sheriff’s office and she told me about a whole range of prevention initiatives she and members of other agencies are involved in – the ‘Kids and Cops’ dialogues I engage with for several weeks was one example, but there are also initiatives in schools and other initiatives in communities. As she said, ‘education is the only answer’ to the gang problems in the county.
I had a long chat with Lt Carn about the issues related to social media, computer games etc that are exacerbating the issue of violence among black young men. He also talked about the deep-rooted issues of racial oppression that have spawned the gang problems in communities of colour. It was a very interesting discussion and I have thoroughly enjoyed working with him and the team. I may have one more ride along I can do with the team, which might take place next week.
I left and drove back down to FAU, arriving there at 2. I had lunch and managed to write another section for chapter 3 of my book on ‘Gangs and Spirituality’ – this particular chapter I am writing focuses on Los Angeles and I am drawing on all the interview data I gathered when I was there in 2015. I had a good chat with Audrey from the office and with John, and left at 6pm. Before I left I had a Skype call with Karen and Alan, and then went back to the apartment and had dinner then did some reading in the evening.
The temperatures are still wonderful here – in the 80s but with a freshness to the climate in the morning. It is only ten days now until my mum and sister arrive here, and I am sure they will enjoy the climate here.
Today i began the day by going to the gym. I came back to work for 9, and Matt Canavan from the IT department connected with me remotely and guided me though he process to set up my email and get me installed onto the electronic student system, Canvas. I then went over to IT and another woman, Judy, showed me how to use Canvas, how to upload materials and insert student assignments. I am finally getting there with everything! Although the bureaucratic procedures never seem to end here, all the staff at FAU are so helpful and nothing is a problem to them. However then I went back to my office to find an email from George Mason University asking me for a whole list of scanned documents to be sent to them prior to my lecture there on 7th March! Here we go again…
The staff meeting in the School took place at 12 and this was an amazing experience. One of the guys in the department, Adam, had suggested offering some good old American hospitality to me through offering some find cuisine before the meeting. well, what a banquet it turned out to be! Adam had smoked a pork butt (shoulder) and make a pot of pulled pork BBQ for a hearty main dish. Then everyone else also contributed – there was coleslaw from Sigal, potato sale from Dave, rolls from Mara, baked corn casserole from Will, deviled eggs from Cassandra, mac and cheese from Lincoln, chips from Seth and lost more! And then a whole range of cakes and pies made by people for dessert – I only had room to sample one, which was home-made apple pie by Ricky. It was so kind of them all – what a fantastic bunch of colleagues they are!
I worked in the afternoon on my book and then left at 5. I skyped home and then had my dinner (although I was till full from lunchtime!) I then went to a great yoga class – the guy, Keshava, who does these classes is really good and very funny and my pal Arron who I met last week was there again.
Today I got up around 9 and had breakfast then went to Boca Raton Community Church for the service. Again, the music and the preaching were really inspiring and I left the church feeling uplifted. It has been really great to find this place and a real blessing to be able to worship here in a different culture and also in a very different type of church with its evangelical focus.
I left the church and drove straight up the coast to Lake Worth, which is between Boynton Beach and West Palm Beach and takes around 30 minutes to get to in the i-95. I found the main beach easily – it was very busy with cars there and it took me a while to get parked in the car park – then a quick dash to buy a hot dog so that I could get quarters to put in the metre.
I spent the next 2.5 hours on the beach, sleeping, going into the sea and walking along the shore. It was another lovely spot with one of the long piers that they seem to have at all the South Florida beaches. The only thing was that, unlike Deerfield Beach, there are no sun loungers provided so I just had to lie on my towel. I left about 3.25 and drove back down the road again. I did home work in the apartment, made my dinner and then called home via Skype – Alan was still up even although it was 10.40 – he has mid-term break from school this week. I then ate my dinner (lamb shops) and cut everything up for a croc pot casserole tomorrow, cleaned the toilet, had a bath and did some washing. Then did some more work on the computer. Oh dear oh dear, there is an awful lot to do when you don;t have a wife to help you! I didn’t realise how much she did for me until I came here!
I am now ready for another week, and on wednesday will enter into my 7th week here.
Today I got up and went for a jog around campus – the scenery was amazing and I came across some iguanas who live in the local lakes on campus. I then got ready and drove round to the Original Pancake House for my unusual Saturday brunch – pancakes, eggs and bacon. while there I used the wifi network to Skype home.
After that I drove back to campus and spent some time at the pool, then drove around to LeLac Road which is around 6 miles away from FAU where I had enrolled for a mindfulness group. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was overwhelmed with the location – a beautiful big house that sat on the lakeside, and the group met inside the house. It was a group of around 10 women and two other men, and we did the practices in the living room which had full-length windows all around it that looked out onto the lake. Doing sitting meditations, yoga stretches and body scans looking out at those views was quite amazing and we even went outside to do a walking meditation out on the grass overlooking the water. The group meets two Wednesday evenings a month, so I might go back. It was good to begin to get back into the mindfulness frame of mind, since I have struggled with my daily meditations a little since being here with everything else that is going on.
I left the house and drove back along Spanish Rover Bvd, past where my mum and sister are coming to stay and on down to the beach where I went for a short walk along the shore – then I drove back, stopping on the way at Publix to get some groceries (this Publix is only 5 minutes away from the cottage where my mum and sister will stay so it will be very handy for them).
I got back around 6.30 with lots of groceries, made my tea which consisted of buffalo wings and fries and then sat down and did some work on my book with some gin and tonics – always a good companion when I am writing! I managed to write 1500 words – hopefully they will make sense when I read them over tomorrow!
Today began with another parking ticket on my car – and then I realised this was because I had left my parking pass in my old car when I returned it to the rental company. I had to make a quick dash around the road to get it back from them and luckily they had removed it from the car before it was re-rented. I then went to the gym and when I came back I went to see if I could get the ticket waived and was told I had to appeal online. Because my online registration still does not work properly I then emailed the parking people and explained the situation – thankfully they wrote back and said that the ticket (which was for $25) could be waived. This week seems to have been a week fraught with challenges, but hopefully that is the last of them. I have our own School’s IT guy coming to see me on Monday to get my online details sorted and get me onto the email system, and he is very helpful. Audrey in the office says we will need to have party to celebrate me finally being recognised as a university employee!
For the rest of the day I caught up with things I still had to to – writing up my field notes from yesterday, analysing the last of my data for the next chapter of my book and getting ready for next week. I had a nice lunch from the breezeway cafe area – tomato and basil soup and a sandwich with turkey and feta cheese, made while I waited. I also skyped home and was glad to see that Alan was looking better and back on the computer today after not being well the last two days. I had a good chat with Karen and also managed to see the gerbils!
I left work at 5pm and went back to the apartment. I sat outside for a while at the pool. I had received a message from my sister telling me that Mark Warburton, the Rangers manger, had resigned before I left work. I started having some Facebook banter with my mate Peebles all about the situation and who we think might come in to the replace Warburton. This went on for about 30 minutes or more, and I then went upstairs and had my tea. Karin Thompson then text me to tell me about Warburton and again we tried to anticipate who might replace him! I then spent the rest of the evening finishing off work, doing the washing and tidying up. I also had two gins to unwind from the week. I am looking forward to some relaxation this weekend.
Today was a very busy and long day. I went to deliver my old car to the car hire company and to pick up my new one from the cheeper hire company. I had to order a cab to get from one pace to another but at least now I have a car hired for all the way though to May at a much cheaper, state employee rate and could pay with my American bank card.
I then drove up to West Palm Beach to work with the County Sheriff’s office. Lt Carn, the African American officer in charge of the County gang department who I met last week, greeted me at the front of the office building and I went in and met all the undercover Detectives from the gang unit. They were a great bunch of guys, all very easy to get on with and they all did interviews with me throughout the day. Three of them also took me to lunch at a nearby sports bar. I learned a lot from them all about the covert detective work they are doing at county level, which includes a big emphasis on the use of wire taps, surveillance of social media, racketeering and shot spotter technology. It was fascinating. I then went with Joe, one of the detectives, to Belle Glade over in the west coast of Palm Beach County to get an insight into the community there. Belle Glade is sometimes referred to as “Muck City” due to the large quantity of muck found in the surrounding area in which sugar cane grows. In the early part of the last decade, the city had the second highest violent crime rate in the country at 298 per 10,000 residents, and it still has probably the highest rate of violent crime in the county. As we entered the centre area of the city, it felt like I was in a third world country – dozens and dozens of people just wander the streets, hang out on corners drinking and whole families play billiards out on the streets at all hours of the day and night. The place is paralysed by poverty, and all the residents are black. We passed by some of the homes, which consist of tiny apartments with no furniture or facilities in them, and many buildings are boarded up. As we drove through, Joe pointed out some of the members of the ‘Four-way Bloods’, one of the most notorious gangs in the area at the moment. There are frequent shootings in this area and it is quite unbelievable to witness the poverty and deprivation in this place, compared with some of the affluence in so many other parts of Florida and the wider USA.
After this I went with Joe to see a crime scene investigation being conducted, where he and some civilian staff collected DNA swabs from a suspect’s car as they continue to try and unravel the details of a recent shooting. Over the past 4 days, there have been 6 shootings in the Glades here and also a shooting on the i-95 just yesterday.
Driving back down the road into Boca Raton and its affluence at 10pm this evening, it is hard to believe when I look around that all of the incidents I heard about today are taking place just a few miles up the road. I am finding there are many contrasting lifestyles and experiences here in the Palm Beach County area.
Today I began work at 9am and conducted an interview with Scott Penney, who is charge of the public defence office I visited yesterday. Scott was on FAU campus for a graduate fayre that was taking place today and so I managed to have a good chat with him before the fayre began.
After this I went to my class. As always this was a great experience – today I continued to talk to the students about gangs in Glasgow, and this time focused on the youth justice system and how it deals with the issues in Scotland. We looked at the Kilbrandon principles, the introduction of the Children’s hearing system in 1971 and the punitive turn that came about during the New Labour years and as a result of the Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2004. I then talked to them about the devolved SNP government’s renewed focus on youth justice that has taken us back to the welfarist approaches that were always the key focus in Scotland – and we looked at the Justice Strategy in Scotland and the way in which early intervention and prevention is very much to the fore. We then looked at the role of youth work and the type of behaviour-changing workshops that young people might be participate in – the students actively participated in some practical activities where they had to consider their responses to various scenarios, and I then shared the work of organisations in Glasgow like FARE in Easterhouse. I showed them a sub-titled DVD of Willie and Dean, two ex-offenders who are now youth workers in FARE in Glasgow, taking about their experiences. It was strange to be sitting in Florida watching my students watch Willie and Dean as they stood on UWS;s Hamilton campus talking abut what led them away from gang violence. This was a really great example of transatlantic knowledge exchange! Towards the end o class, I told the students about the Scottish Government–funded initiative ‘No Knives Better Lives’ and played them a DVD clip of one of the anti-knife carrying workshops that young people in scotland participate in in schools, youth clubs etc. It was a great session, and the students seemed to really enjoy learning all about the interventions that are used in Scotland and the way in which these have really helped to drive down gang-related crime in Glasgow.
After this I finished off doing some work in the office, I skyped Karen and Alan and I then went over to Payroll to do the final electronic forms that will now allow me to have an official FAU log-in password and email address. At last I think I am finished with all these forms!
I skyped my mum at 4.30pm and then had my tea before driving to West Palm Beach to observe and participate again in the ‘Kids and Cops’ workshop there with police officers, young people, public defenders and attorneys. It was the final evening and I made contact with someone from the Juvenile justice department there who is hopefully going to help me to meet and talk with some young people who have participated in this initiative.
I drove back down for 9pm. Another busy day!