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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.

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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

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.