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Article

Historically, U.S. policy has been characterized by long-standing ambivalence evident in the changing emphasis placed on prohibition as the aim of drug policy, and in debate about the relative merits of various approaches to drug control. Often characterized as supply reduction versus demand reduction efforts, significant changes have occurred over time in these efforts, and in the emphasis placed on them. In the last quarter of the twentieth century, U.S. drug policy adopted a more prohibitionist stance, with increased reliance on a variety of law enforcement, and even military actions, to control the supply and use of drugs, even in the face of evidence for the effectiveness of prevention and treatment, and high costs associated with the burgeoning incarceration rates.

Article

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

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

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

Christina E. Newhill

Client violence and workplace safety are relevant issues for all social workers across practice settings. This entry addresses why and how social workers may be targets for a client's violent behavior, and what we know about who is at risk of encountering violence. Understanding violence from a biopsychosocial perspective, identifying risk markers associated with violent behavior, and an introduction to guidelines for conducting a risk assessment will be discussed. The entry concludes by identifying and describing some general strategies for the prevention of client violence.

Article

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

Carolyn I. Polowy, Sherri Morgan, W. Dwight Bailey, and Carol Gorenberg

Confidentiality of client communications is one of the ethical foundations of the social work profession and has become a legal obligation in most states. Many problems arise in the application of the principles of confidentiality and privilege to the professional services provided by social workers. This entry discusses the concepts of client confidentiality and privileged communications and outlines some of the applicable exceptions. While the general concept of confidentiality applies in many interactions between social workers and clients, the application of confidentiality and privilege laws are particularly key to the practice of clinical social workers in various practice settings.

Article

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

Margaret E. Severson

This entry includes contemporary definitions of crime, theoretical ideas about the etiology of criminal behavior, and information about the methods used to estimate crime rates in the United States. The focus of this entry is on adult prisoners. Key issues such as disproportionate minority incarceration, the acceleration in the number of women entering into the criminal justice system over the last 20 years, and the prevalence of persons with mental illnesses in the nation's jails and prisons are addressed. Current controversies and practices such as risk reduction efforts and rehabilitation strategies are described.

Article

This entry on the adult court system in the United States discusses the foundation, structure, and authority of courts at federal, state, and local levels. The role of criminal courts, the nature of an adversarial justice system, the plea bargaining process, and the goals of sentencing are described. Innovations such as specialized courts, restorative justice approaches, and therapeutic jurisprudence are presented. Finally, several social work roles in the court system are identified.

Article

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

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

Steven P. Segal

The deinstitutionalization policy sought to replace institutional care for populations in need of care and control with prosocial community-based alternatives. U.S. institutional populations, however, have increased since the policy’s inception by 205%. As implemented, with the assistance of advocacy and cost-cutting factions, it has succeeded only in enabling the divestiture of state responsibility for target groups. It sought to prevent unnecessary admission and retention in institutions. As implemented, deinstitutionalization initiated a process that involved a societal shift in the type of institutions and institutional alternatives used to house its target groups, often referred to as transinstitutionalization. For many in need of institutional placements, it has succeeded in preventing all admissions, while it has expanded admissions for others. In seeking to develop community alternatives for housing, treating, and habilitating or rehabilitating its target groups, it has succeeded in establishing a variety of alternative living arrangements and showcase/model programs illustrating what can be done, yet it has failed to deliver on investments in such programs to serve the majority of its target groups. It has resulted in the abandonment of substantial numbers to homelessness. Deinstitutionalization policy has motivated political, economic, legal, and social change in the care and control of six populations—older adults, children, people with mental illness, people with developmental disabilities, people under correctional system supervision, and, more recently, individuals without a home. A truer implementation of deinstitutionalization’s initial aspirations requires reconsideration of these changes.

Article

The deinstitutionalization policy sought to replace institutional care for populations in need of care and control with prosocial community-based alternatives. U.S. institutional populations, however, have increased since the policy’s inception by 205%. As implemented, with the assistance of advocacy and cost-cutting factions, it has succeeded only in enabling the divestiture of state responsibility for target groups. It sought to prevent unnecessary admission and retention in institutions. As implemented, deinstitutionalization initiated a process that involved a societal shift in the type of institutions and institutional alternatives used to house its target groups, often referred to as trans-institutionalization. For many in need of institutional placements, it has succeeded in preventing all admissions, expanding admissions for others. In seeking to develop community alternatives for housing, treating, and habilitating or rehabilitating its target groups, it has succeeded in establishing a variety of alternative living arrangements and showcase and model programs illustrating what can be done; yet, it has failed to deliver on investments in such programs to serve the majority of its target groups. It has resulted in the abandonment of substantial numbers to homelessness. It has been documented, from political, economic, legal, and social perspectives, how this policy has affected the care and control of populations such as older adults, children, people with mental illness or developmental disabilities, people under correctional-system supervision, and, more recently, individuals without a home. Suggestions for a truer implementation of deinstitutionalization’s initial aspirations are available.

Article

Since the mid 1980s, a growing body of theoretical and empirical literature has examined the existence of intimate partner violence (IPV) in lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) communities. Collectively, this research has suggested that IPV in rainbow communities occurs at rates comparable to those documented among heterosexual populations and results in similar detrimental psychological, social, and physical consequences for victims. Importantly, however, this work has also highlighted myriad ways in which the social and structural marginalization of gender and sexual minority populations create unique vulnerabilities for IPV that are not shared by cissexual and heterosexual individuals. This entry provides an overview of this scholarship to inform strength-based social work practice with and for LGBT survivors of domestic violence at the macro, mezzo, and micro levels.

Article

Julie Schroeder and Bridgette Harris

Drug courts were developed to facilitate treatment for criminal offenders with substance abuse problems. Drug courts operate using dual paradigms of healing and discipline via treatment, social service resources, and case management for healing, and judicial sanctions and criminal justice interventions in efforts to initiate change resulting in sobriety and no further criminal behavior. The key goals of most drug courts are to reduce drug use and associated criminal behavior by engaging and retaining drug-involved offenders in programs and treatment services; to concentrate expertise about drug cases into a single courtroom; to address other defendant needs through clinical assessment and effective case management; and to free judicial, prosecutorial and public defense resources for adjudicating non-drug cases. It is vital that social work students be introduced to drug courts and how they function for students to gain better understanding of how addiction can bring their clients into contact with the criminal justice system. Drug courts are ideal settings for internship placements so that students can get hands-on experience in a court setting and assist clients using a therapeutic jurisprudence model.

Article

Sheila P. Vakharia

Social workers are uniquely qualified to be effective drug policy advocates for effective and equitable policies through their commitment to advancing social welfare and promoting social justice. The prohibitionist antidrug policies that began at the turn of the 20th century have been a key driver for the criminalization of millions of Americans over time, a disproportionate number of whom have been people of color. The period beginning with President Richard Nixon’s “War on Drugs,” in addition to contributing to inequality and marginalization, has exacerbated a number of public health and safety harms, suggesting that past policy approaches have not met their intended aims. The North American opioid overdose crisis in the early 21st century is presented as an illustrative case study because its persistence and mounting death toll exemplify the challenges with the current model of drug prohibition. Areas for macro social work interventions include legislative advocacy through lobbying, provision of expert testimony in legislative hearings, engagement in reform through litigation, involvement in social action, and performing policy analysis and research.

Article

Eloise Rathbone-McCuan

Elder abuse is now recognized internationally as a social problem among the aging population. Intentional abuse, neglect, and exploitation among caregivers to frail and isolated elderly create serious risks across diverse formal and informal care settings. This field has expanded continuously since the early 1970s. Accurate prevalence and incidence rates have not been determined. There is a national system of elder victim protection operating within each state. The social work profession is legally mandated to report situations where an elderly person is suspected to be at risk of abuse. Social workers are involved in all aspects of elder abuse prevention and intervention services.

Article

Sunny Harris Rome

Forensic social work is a practice specialty that involves interaction with the courts. It has emerged as an important field in the past several decades. Forensic social workers often are involved in making recommendations regarding competency, involuntary commitment, risk of violence, and alternative sentencing. They conduct forensic interviews and psychosocial assessments, and testify as expert witnesses. They also provide treatment to court-ordered offenders. Their influence is felt in cases of domestic violence, child maltreatment, custody, mental health, immigration, elder abuse, divorce, visitation, foster care, adoption, criminal and juvenile justice, substance abuse, and probation and parole.

Article

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.