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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

Mental Health Courts  

Matthew Epperson, Julian Thompson, and Kelli E. Canada

This article discusses the emergence, structure, and purpose of the mental health court. It details the therapeutic aspects of the mental health court and its function as a specialized-treatment court serving persons with serious mental illnesses in the criminal justice system. Guiding themes, such as the criminalization of mental illness, therapeutic jurisprudence, and drug-treatment courts are described. It also identifies key legislation that contributed to the funding and proliferation of mental health courts. The effectiveness of mental health court, along with current criticisms regarding its impact on participants’ mental health and recidivism outcomes, are also covered. Last, social work values and the various roles of social workers in the mental health court are highlighted to demonstrate the relevance of mental health court to contemporary social work practice and intervention.

Article

Perpetrators of Intimate Partner Violence  

Larry W. Bennett and Oliver J. Williams

Perpetrators of intimate partner violence (IPV) use coercive actions toward intimate or formerly intimate partners, including emotional abuse, stalking, threats, physical violence, or rape. The lifetime prevalence of IPV is 35% for women and 28% for men, with at an estimated economic cost of over ten billion dollars. IPV occurs in all demographic sectors of society, but higher frequencies of IPV perpetration are found among people who are younger and who have lower income and less education. Similar proportions of men and women use IPV, but when the effects of partner abuse are considered, women bear the greatest physical and behavioral health burden. Single-explanation causes for IPV such as substance abuse, patriarchy, and personality disorders are sometimes preferred by practitioners, advocates, and policymakers, but an understanding of IPV perpetration is enhanced when we look through the multiple lenses of culture and society, relationship, and psychological characteristics of the perpetrators.

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

Prisoner Re-entry  

Peter C. Treitler and Beth Angell

Each year in the United States, more than 600,000 individuals transition from prisons back to the community upon release. This transition process, referred to as prisoner re-entry, is often fraught with challenges as individuals who in many cases already faced barriers to opportunity prior to incarceration are further marginalized because of the collateral consequences of incarceration. Common challenges experienced by released prisoners include difficulty securing stable housing and employment, limited social support, mental and physical health problems, barriers to social and political participation, and the stigma of a criminal record. Not surprising given the barriers to successful reintegration, recidivism rates are high, and more than half of released prisoners are re-incarcerated within five years. Although punitive approaches were dominant in the United States criminal justice system from the 1970s through the early 2000s, there has been a move toward a more rehabilitative approach since that time, resulting in policy changes that reduce incarceration and support reentry, and expansion of services for prisoners before and after release. Although relatively few social workers are employed in criminal justice settings, the ripple effects of incarceration on social and health outcomes imply that social workers employed in a wide variety of settings can expect to regularly encounter individuals who are at various points in the re-entry process, or families and significant others who are affected secondarily. Social workers will be better prepared to assist formerly incarcerated individuals with an awareness of the issues faced by this population, and the unique barriers they experience in accessing housing, employment, and other resources. This article therefore aims to provide an overview of prisoner re-entry, with a focus on matters relevant to social work researchers and practitioners. As a boundary-spanning profession, social work is ideally positioned to propel forward approaches that prioritize promoting social capital, strengthening communities that receive former prisoners, and adopting a strengths-based lens to rehabilitation and promoting desistance from crime.

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

Probation and Parole  

Jeffrey A. Butts

Community-based supervision allows the legal system to hold criminal offenders accountable for their behavior without the significant costs and potential harms associated with incarceration. When offenders are placed on probation (in lieu of incarceration) or parole (as a follow-up to incarceration), they are also usually involved in other programs as well, including victim or offender mediation, substance abuse treatment, workforce development, restitution, community service, and electronic monitoring.

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 Disparities in the Juvenile Justice System  

Henrika McCoy and Emalee Pearson

Racial disparities in the juvenile justice system, more commonly known as disproportionate minority contact (DMC), are the overrepresentation, disparity, and disproportionate numbers of youth of color entering and moving deeper into the juvenile justice system. There has been some legislative attention to the issue since the implementation of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act of 1974 (JJDPA) and most recently with attempts in 2017 to reauthorize the Act. Originally focused solely on confinement, it became clear by 1988 there was disproportionality at all decision points in the juvenile justice system, and the focus changed to contact. DMC most commonly is known to impact Black and Hispanic youth, but a closer look reveals how other youth of color are also impacted. Numerous factors have been previously identified that create DMC, but increasingly factors such as zero-tolerance in schools and proactive policing in communities are continuing to negatively impact reduction efforts. Emerging issues indicate the need to consider society’s demographic changes, the criminalization of spaces often occupied by youth of color, and gender differences when creating and implementing strategies to reduce DMC.

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.

Article

Restorative Justice  

Katherine van Wormer

Restorative justice is an umbrella term for a victim-oriented method of righting a wrong, promoting healing following conflict, and providing a sense of safety in the aftermath of violence. Restorative justice refers not only to a number of strategies for resolving conflicts peacefully but also to a political campaign of sorts to advocate for the rights of victims and compassionate treatment of offenders. Instead of incarceration, for example, the option of community service coupled with substance abuse treatment might be favored. When the offender is an organization or governing body, reparations to affected individuals or populations might be in order. From the offender’s standpoint, accountability and truth-telling are stressed, as the offender typically offers to make amends for the harm that was done. From the victim/survivor’s standpoint, a key theme is empowerment, through receiving an apology from the wrongdoer and receiving the support of caring participants. Several models of restorative justice are relevant to social work, including victim–offender conferencing (sometimes incorrectly referred to as mediation), family group conferencing, healing circles, and community reparations. Social work involvement in the field of restorative justice occurs at all levels of practice. Its application in the context of macro social work involves communities, policy, and organizations.

Article

School-Based Truancy Courts  

Fayneese Miller

Truancy, or unexcused chronic absenteeism from school, has been linked to school dropout, early onset criminal behavior, drug use, and other negative behaviors. Given the negative impact of truancy on the future outlook for students and the potential costs for society, many communities have begun to identity programs or collaborations that might reduce truancy and improve academic achievement of students. An increasingly key partner in such efforts is the courts. Truancy is defined as a legal term and the role school-based or affiliated truancy courts play in truancy is significant. The Stop Truancy Reduction Program in the United States needs to be emphasized as a model for the ways in which courts can partner with school personnel, social workers, and other mental health counselors to address truancy and its associated problems.

Article

Sex Trafficking Policy  

Kathleen Bergquist

Human trafficking, to include labor and sex trafficking, was recognized by the United Nations in 2000 through the Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime, supplemented by the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress, and Punish Trafficking in Persons Especially Women and Children (Palermo Protocol). Nation states that ratified the protocol signaled their intent to be legally bound by it and consequently to develop policies to implement within their respective countries. The definition of human trafficking generally includes the commercial exploitation of persons for labor or sex. The International Labour Organization estimated in 2016 that of the 24.9 million people trapped in forced labor, 4.8 million are being sexually exploited. This article provides a historical context for sex trafficking, some discussion about the political evolution of sex trafficking legislation, current knowledge, and practice.