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Article

Abolitionist Social Work  

Noor Toraif and Justin C. Mueller

Abolitionist social work is a theoretical framework and political project within the field of social work and an extension of the project of carceral abolitionism more broadly. Abolitionists seek to abolish punishment, prisons, police, and other carceral systems because they view these as being inherently destructive systems. Abolitionists argue that these carceral systems cause physiological, cognitive, economic, and political harms for incarcerated people, their families, and their communities; reinforce White supremacy; disproportionately burden the poor and marginalized; and fail to produce justice and healing after social harms have occurred. In their place, abolitionists want to create material conditions, institutions, and forms of community that facilitate emancipation and human flourishing and consequently render prisons, police, and other carceral systems obsolete. Abolitionist social workers advance this project in multiple ways, including critiquing the ways that social work and social workers are complicit in supporting or reinforcing carceral systems, challenging the expansion of carceral systems and carceral logics into social service domains, dismantling punitive and carceral institutions and methods of responding to social harms, implementing nonpunitive and noncarceral institutions and methods of responding to social harms, and strengthening the ability of communities to design and implement their own responses to social conflict and harm in the place of carceral institutions. As a theoretical framework, abolitionist social work draws from and extends the work of other critical frameworks and discourses, including anticarceral social work, feminist social work, dis/ability critical race studies, and transformative justice.

Article

Black Lives Matter  

Mildred Delozia and Charles M. S. Birore

Black Lives Matter (BLM), which led to the Black Lives Matter movement (BLMM), has been described as a movement with a global following. The movement is aligned with the social work profession’s purpose and values. The social work profession is a human rights profession and has a history of involvement with movements, beginning with the settlement house movement in the late 19th century. The BLMM frames its narrative based on human rights and espouses an agenda that calls out injustice in all facets of social justice. Therefore, a central aim is to understand the BLMM from multiple perspectives. Definitions, theoretical perspectives, and types of social movements are presented, and then the framework of social movements is used to understand the BLMM. Finally, the BLMM is examined in relation to historical social movements, advocacy organizations, and criminal justice reform.

Article

Capital Punishment  

Sondra J. Fogel, M. Dwayne Smith, and Beth Bjerregaard

Capital punishment, the administration of death as a legal sanction, is a criminal-justice response to a restricted class of criminal activities that involve the killing of another human being. As a legal process, capital punishment has been modified by several landmark U.S. Supreme Court decisions. Yet, it remains a controversial penalty with factors of race, gender, socio-economic status, mental health status of the defendant, and other extra-legal factors often attributed to the sentencing decision. Social workers are increasingly used as mitigation experts or in similar types of roles for the defense team. As a profession, social work opposes the use of capital punishment. The purpose of this entry is to provide an overview of the death penalty as it is currently practiced in the United States and to review current issues and controversies surrounding its administration.

Article

Children and Armed Conflict  

Susan Mapp

The United Nations has defined six grave violations that occur in war that impact children: killing or maiming of children, recruitment or use of children as soldiers, sexual violence against children, attacks against schools or hospitals, denial of humanitarian access for children, and abduction of children. These violations have a myriad of negative impacts on children, including biological, psychological, and social effects. Culturally appropriate support and care provided at the micro, mezzo, and macro levels can help alleviate these impacts and help children recover from these experiences.

Article

Community Healing and Reconciliation  

Joshua Kirven and George Jacinto

Community healing and reconciliation have been a focus of many nations in response to civil war, genocide, and other conflicts. There also has been an increase in the number of high-profile murders of young African Americans at the hands of law enforcement in the United States. In 2020 this problem was even more real and growing with the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks, and Ahmaud Arbery. These tragic incidents have led to public outcry, civil unrest, and police protests for social change moving from a threshold of peaceful assemblies to violent confrontations across the United States causing the world to take notice and posit the question, “do Black lives really matter?” To answer this question a critical overview of gun violence, a reflective aftermath of the killings of two African American youths in Sanford, Florida and Cleveland, Ohio, and the community’s voice and reaction and the community’s resiliency towards healing and reconciliation are examined. Community model initiatives are introduced of the two cities affected in bridging police-community relations through acknowledging and addressing historical injustices with police and systematic racism and how they attempted to bring positive change, healing and reconciliation.

Article

Conflict Theory for Macro Practice  

Susan P. Robbins and George S. Leibowitz

Conflict theory encompasses several theories that share underlying assumptions about interlocking systems of oppression and how they are maintained. The relevance of Marx’s theory of class conflict, C. Wright Mills’s power elite, and pluralist interest group theory are all important to understand and address social and economic gaps and informing policy for macro practice. Conflict theory can provide an understanding of health disparities, racial differences in mortality rates, class relationships associated with negative outcomes, poverty, discrimination in criminal justice, as well as numerous factors that are broadly associated with inequality embedded in social structures. Social workers play a significant role in addressing disparities in research, curricula, primary and secondary intervention, and public policy, and conflict theory can provide the framework necessary to enrich this understanding.

Article

Criminal Justice: Corrections  

C. Aaron McNeece

The United States has more than 7 million adults under correctional supervision, with more than 2 million incarcerated. The history and theories behind incarceration are described, along with the current jail and prison inmate populations. Specific problems of juveniles and women are mentioned. Current trends and issues in corrections are discussed, including community-based corrections, privatization, faith-based programs, and health care. The roles of social workers in the correctional system are outlined. Comments are made on the future of incarceration.

Article

Criminal Justice: Overview  

Michael C. Gearhart

The American criminal justice system is comprised of four main components: law enforcement, the judiciary, corrections, and legislature. These components work together to investigate crimes, arrest individuals, weigh evidence of guilt, monitor individuals who are found guilty, and make laws. Though the criminal justice system is meant to administer justice in an equitable manner, a number of controversial policies and practices exist within the criminal justice system. These practices are typically rooted in historical biases that continue to create disparities today. Social work has a long history of reforming the criminal justice system. However, modern disparities illustrate that there is still work to be done. The skills of macro social workers are foundational to present-day advocacy efforts and emerging criminal justice practice, highlighting the enduring significance of macro social work practice in criminal justice reform.

Article

Hate Crimes  

Nancy A. Humphreys and Shannon Lane

Hate crimes and their traumatic repercussions are an important area for social worker intervention. This entry will examine how hate crimes are defined and handled, and the difficulties inherent in categorizing and responding to them. Collection of hate crime statistics and hate crime–related legislation are reviewed. The entry will also examine how social workers can help victims and perpetrators and influence how society conceptualizes and prevents hate crimes and their consequences.

Article

Incarcerated Women  

Patricia O’Brien

This article summarizes the incidence of women in the United States who have been sentenced to prison as a consequence of a felony conviction for violation of state or federal laws. It also describes their characteristics and co-occurring health conditions; issues that contribute to women’s experiences after release from prison, including those that lead to success and failure during re-entry; and gendered practices and policies that provide alternatives to incarceration.

Article

Intimate Partner Violence  

Bonnie E. Carlson

Intimate partner violence—physical, emotional, or sexual abuse experienced in both heterosexual and same-sex relationships—has emerged as a significant and complex social problem warranting the attention of social workers. Numerous risk factors have been identified in individual perpetrators and victims, as well as at the level of the relationship, community, and society. Partner violence has diverse consequences for female victims, as well as for perpetrators and children who are exposed to it. Although many female victims do seek help and end abusive relationships, seeking help from professionals such as social workers is often a last resort.

Article

Intimate Partner Violence and Abuse  

Jill Theresa Messing

Intimate partner violence—the continual and systematic exercise of power and control within an intimate relationship that often also includes physical and sexual violence—has emerged as a significant and complex social problem warranting the attention of social workers. Risk and protective factors have been identified at the individual, family, community, and societal levels. Some of these risk factors for repeat and lethal violence have been organized into risk assessment instruments that can be used by social workers to educate and empower survivors. Intimate partner violence has multiple negative health and mental health consequences for female victims and their children. Social workers in all areas of practice should be prepared to intervene with victims of intimate partner violence in a culturally competent manner using a strengths-based framework.

Article

Juvenile Delinquency  

Carolyn Smith

The following article on juvenile delinquency has three major objectives: First, it defines delinquency and discusses its measurement and extent; second, it reviews theory and risk factor data on causes of delinquency; third, it discusses current trends in juvenile justice intervention and delinquency prevention, including social worker involvement.

Article

Juvenile Justice: Juvenile and Family Courts  

Mark Ezell

This section defines and discusses the jurisdictions of the juvenile and family courts as well as their influences on social work practice. The history of the court, several interpretations of it, as well as various reform efforts are reviewed. Opportunities for social workers to be employed by the numerous agencies affiliated with the court, as well as several nontraditional social work roles, are outlined in this section. The final two parts of the section discuss the major innovations and primary challenges faced by the contemporary court such as gender, class, and racial biases in the system, questions about the effectiveness of the court and associated programs. Finally, proposals to abolish or reinvent the juvenile court are presented.

Article

Legal System  

Robert G. Madden

The law is a powerful force in all aspects of contemporary U.S. society. The legal system furnishes the context and procedures for the creation and enforcement of laws to resolve disputes, to protect rights, and generally to maintain order. Social workers are expected to understand the basic workings of the legal system generally, in addition to having knowledge of specific laws relevant to their area of practice. Knowledge of the legal system provides the foundation to support social workers to undertake social justice initiatives, to give voice to vulnerable client populations, and to work for legal rules that support good social work practice and positive outcomes for the clients and communities served.

Article

Police Social Work  

Rosemary Alamo and Rick Ornelas

Police social workers are professionally trained social workers or individuals with related academic degrees employed within police departments or social service agencies who receive referrals primarily from police officers. Their primary functions are to provide direct services such as crisis counseling and mediation to individuals and families experiencing social problems such as mental illness, alcohol and substance use and abuse, domestic violence, and child abuse, among others. Additional functions of police social workers are mezzo and macro related and include training police officers in stress management, mental illness, substance abuse, domestic violence, and child abuse; providing consultation and counseling to police officers and their families; program planning, development, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation; grant writing; legislative advocacy; and community and organizational needs assessment. Essentially, police social workers influence laws, legislation, policies, and practices that impact individuals, families, groups, law enforcement, organizations, and communities.

Article

Prison Social Work  

Jason Matejkowski, Toni Johnson, and Margaret E. Severson

This entry provides a description of prison social work and the array of responsibilities that social workers in prison settings have, including intake screening and assessment, supervision, crisis intervention, ongoing treatment, case management, and parole and release planning. The authors provide the legal context for providing social-work services to prisoners and delve into issues involving three specific populations of growing concern to corrections officials and to prison social work: women inmates, inmates who are parents, and inmates with mental illness. The tension between the goals of social work and corrections is explored and opportunities for social workers to apply their professional values within the prison setting are highlighted.

Article

Prison Violence  

Kristine Levan

This entry presents an overview of prison violence and how issues such as overcrowding and scarcity of resources may contribute. Exploring both collective and interpersonal levels of violence, issues such as incidents between inmates and those between inmates and staff are examined. This entry looks at the issues facing males, females, juveniles, and the mentally ill as they contend with correctional institutions and violence within these institutions. The potential effects of violent victimization are also examined, as well as potential interventions and solutions to reduce violence.

Article

Racial Disparities in the Criminal Justice System  

Susan A. McCarter

Social work and criminal justice have a shared history in the United States dating back to the 19th century when their combined focus was rehabilitation. But with an increase in crime, this focus shifted to punishment and incapacitation, and a schism resulted between social work and criminal justice. Given current mass incarceration and disparities in criminal justice, social work has returned in force to this important practice. The latest Bureau of Justice Statistics research reports that 1% of all adult males living in the United States were serving a prison sentence of a year or longer (Carson & Anderson, 2016) and rates of diversion, arrest, sentencing (including the death penalty), incarceration, etc., vary considerably by race/ethnicity (Nellis, 2016). This entry explores race and ethnicity, current population demographics, and criminal justice statistics/data analysis, plus theories and social work-specific strategies to address racial and ethnic disparities in the criminal justice system.

Article

Racial Profiling and Policing Black Communities  

Joshua Kirven

Strained police-community relations are not new to distressed and black communities. However, recent decades of modern-day policing have become a challenging, stressful job for officers in terms of safety and social order, job performance, and being recorded (often on cell phones) and quickly judged by the public. This article looks at racial profiling, implicit bias, and how the heavy hand of order-maintenance policing is used to the detriment of black communities, especially black males. The relevance of contact theory will be discussed in terms of its relevance for reaching mutual ground between black males and police officers. This article offers practical strategies for (a) social workers (community practitioners), (b) black males and citizens of color , and ( c) police officers themselves. For officers specifically, this potential awareness can lead to healthier, neutral experiences with black males leading to positive policing of black communities.