I am in the process of writing a new book entitled ‘Gangs and Spirituality – Global Perspectives.’ The book is due to be published in the summer of 2018, and is fundamentally about the relationship between masculinity, gang disengagement, desistance and spirituality. The book draws on insights I have gathered through qualitative research across three continents of the world – Europe, America and Asia.
I am currently in the midst of writing Chapter 8 of the book. In this chapter, I present insights from semi-structured interviews I conducted with a small sample of men in Denmark. Some of these men were still incarcerated when I worked with them, while others had been recently released from prison. The interviewees were former members of Danish street gangs and biker gangs or (in a minority of cases) drug dealers outwith gang structures. These men had regularly begun to participate in a particular form of physical yoga exercises, dynamic breathing techniques and meditation practices, and in the chapter I combine their insights with those emerging from interviews I conducted with yoga and meditation coaches. I explore the way in which the men discussed and described the cognitive and identity shifts they experienced through the practices, the way in which they felt more able to deal more effectively with negative and destructive emotions and the personal strains that led them into gang violence and wider criminality.
This chapter, as with others in the new book, provides insights into the types of pioneering approaches that can best support gang members’ progression towards criminal desistance. Further information on the new book will be released during future blogs and Twitter feeds. The date of release will be confirmed in due course. Watch this space!