Today I entered week 16 of my Fulbright scholarship period here in Boca Raton. I drove up to West Palm Beach for 9am to go to Gun Club Road where I have been many times during my trip, today to meet with faculty there to get a full tour around the County Jail. I arrived at 8.50am and met Cassandra, Lincoln, Will, Seth and Lisa along with members of the criminal justice department and went in and met the corrections officers there. These were the same guys I had met with when I was conducting my interviews with inmates a few weeks ago.
The guys took us all round the jail and this was a really interesting experience for me since I had never properly seen the inside of a county jail in the USA before. Generally, the jail stuck me as quite basic and a little primitive in places compared to some of the prisons I have seen in the UK and certainly in Denmark. The recreational areas are mainly used for basketball and have no equipment in them, and when we got down to the solitary, maximum security section it was very traditional – with iron gates and bars, and prisoners housed in multiple dorms which looked very basic. We even saw some inmates having showers as we passed. We saw a restraining chair where some inmates are held for up to 4 hours if they have displayed very disruptive/violent behaviour, and the keys that are contained in glass panelled security cabinets look very traditional – the real ‘jailer’s keys’, unlike the electronic cards that I have seen used in other prisons I have visited in Europe. We also saw a display cabinet with lots of examples of contraband in them – make-shift weapons smuggled into the jail and shoes that have had concealed drugs within them etc. Visitation is done purely via video – so inmates can go up to a row of screens and lift a phone and communicate with their visitors but are not permitted to actually meet with them, because of the history of drugs being smuggled into the jail in the past. This was a fascinating experience for me and helped me to see the big differences between the US county jail system and the prison system in the UK and other parts of Europe.
I then left the rest of the team and went with the corrections officers to get ready to conduct more of my interviews with inmates. First I had lunch in the officers’ room, and managed to get a connection for my phone and get onto Facebook while having lunch where I had a few messages with my good pal John Peebles, who is currently in Tailand and was 11 hours ahead of me in time and just getting ready to go to sleep. It is amazing that we can communicate around the world so easily these days. We texted each other a few times and he was amused to hear that I was texting him from jail!
I then went to the interview room, leaving my phone and other belongings behind and conducted 3 more interviews with inmates. Again, these were all very interesting. I also interviewed one of the sergeants. I now have 2-3 more interviews to do, and will return tomorrow to complete them.
I drove back to FAU for about 4.30, did some work, had my dinner then went over to the office to photocopy my exam scripts for the students who have their final undergraduate exam in class on Wednesday. I met John who was just finishing his teaching and he gave me a lift back over to the apartment.