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Big Bend Community College William C. Bonaudi Library

William C. Bonaudi Library's Down the Research Rabbit Hole | Issue 20 | Kaja Englund, M.S., SUDPT Criminal Justice/Psychology Faculty | Paradox of Positivity

by Rhonda Kitchens on 2023-11-14T09:01:00-08:00 | 0 Comments

William C.  Bonaudi Library's Down the Research Rabbit Hole with Kaja Englund, M.S., SUDPT. Title:  Paradox of Positivity



What is your mental space when it comes to research?  Do you have a plan? Are you random?  Is it a research rabbit hole or a carefully planned expedition? 


My research always starts with the full intention of being a carefully planned expedition. I like to think I know exactly what I want to find, however, that is not always, or even sometimes, rarely the case. I don’t think this is a bad thing though! You never know what you’re going to find in the rabbit hole.  

I always attempt to keep my mental space open-minded. Like when I say “You never know what you’re going to find in the rabbit hole!”. Who are we to ONLY focus our area of research on what we want to read? It is so important to stay open-minded, otherwise, how are we ever going to learn something new?  

In terms of my specific research, I do tend to stay within the realm of criminology. Within this realm, my favorite area to dig deep into includes understanding the criminal mind, life behind bars, and the reintegration and reentry process for former inmates. All of this of course leads to further rabbit hole topics such as the ongoing nature vs. nurture argument, generational criminals/trauma, mental health issues in the world of the corrections system, gangs, prison culture, the old and new concepts of deviant behavior, and the list goes on.  


To keep up with your profession, what are your go-to books, blogs, journals, social media follows, and/or people? 

In terms of content-dense resources, Robert Agnew, Larry Gaines, Roger Miller, or Faith Lutze are my go to. In regard to the above response, Faith Lutze does a great job of helping readers consider things from varying points of view that can absolutely challenge one's typical way of thinking.  

In terms of entertainment, you can expect that while I am at home on the couch or scrolling on my phone, I am likely listening to, reading or scrolling from one of the following:  

Podcasts: Crime Junkie and/or The Deck  

TikTok/Instagram: Soft White Underbelly, SOSA, Killer Bee Tactical, Jesse Crosson, and/or Crimes 

Ted Talks: Anything by Brene Brown, Elizabeth Loftus, Ben David, Ronald Sullivan, and Tony Hoffman are all great.  


What would people be surprised to know about you? 

I am a great cook! When I have an open afternoon or evening, I love to spend that time cooking. I don’t want to say I am not a rule follower per say, but I can tell you I sure am not a recipe follower. I love “trying new recipes”, when in reality, that means I go on Pinterest, find a recipe that sounds good, get the needed ingredients, and wing it. I must admit, according to my fiance, my meals turn out great nine times out of ten. Don’t ask him about the time I went a little too heavy on the cumin. I come from a family of fantastic cooks and bakers, so you could say it is generational. I have high hopes I will carry those genes on.  

In addition, this really isn’t a big surprise, but I am very optimistic. With that in mind, I am also a huge empath. When I feel feelings, I feel them hard, even when those feelings are expressed for others. I am the type of person who will cry if you cry, get emotional seeing homeless individuals on street corners, get emotional when I see a stray dog or feel even more excitement than you do when you get a new job or ace your final exam. However, what does surprise people is that I have fallen in love with and have become so very passionate in studying one of the most dark, twisted, evil, and frustrating fields - criminal justice. How can someone so happy and smiley and optimistic be so passionate about something so dark? Well, to be completely honest I don’t know. I don’t have a solid answer to that. But I can say, that optimism is important.  


If you could spend the rest of your life free and supported to research one topic, what would it be? 


Understanding criminal behavior. And to be specific, conducting my own qualitative research with criminals/inmates through surveys and questionnaires with those willing to participate.  

finger print with magnifying glass


What book, poem, or study have you read that engaged you so deeply you were changed? 


I wish I could give you the name of the author and title of this poem, however, I can’t. I came across this poem that was mentioned very briefly in a qualitative study I stumbled on in grad school. The purpose of the study was to determine recidivism rates of former inmates and understand what their reentry/reintegration process was like and where it went right and where it went wrong following release. 

This poem was written by a recent inmate (identified by his Department of Corrections identification number) who was locked away for what I want to say was 20-30 years. He was in prison when iPhones came out, social media boomed, streaming apps like Netflix and Hulu became popular, and so on. In other words, what this man was suggesting was that the world outside of his got busy. He shared how when he got out, he couldn’t help but feel an overwhelming sensory overload. Busses and cars were louder than ever, phones vibrating, ringing, and dinging were louder than ever, city lights, street lights, car lights, and phone lights were brighter than ever, and food was saltier, fattier, spicier, and more potent than ever. We don’t think twice about these things, because we have been along for the ride this entire time. This man was now realizing he needed to play catch-up. His world was “on pause” while in prison, as the world and lives around him boomed.  

In addition, a lot of so-called “gang bangers” and “druggies” are engulfed in a culture of rap music. The rap music they are engulfed in consists of lyrics talking about the dark and evil side of crime. At their most basic levels, rap and poetry are both structured the same, but after reading this poem, I thought to myself, this inmate's once dark rap music has morphed into reflective, meaningful poetry. And that was just the start of his (hopefully) successful release.  

I highly encourage checking these out! Linked is a program and poems written by young inmates who express their voice through poetry:  

'Our Minds are Still Free:'  These Former Prisoners Find Strength Through Poetry  

Free Minds Book Club & Writing Workshop  



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