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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

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

Sadye L. M. Logan

Kenneth Stephen Carpenter (1924–2018) served for 55 years in the field of criminal justice. He pioneered in introducing social-work principles, programs, and practices in juvenile and adult criminal institutions and settings.

Article

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

Priscilla Gibson

Albert R. Roberts (1944–2008), PhD, BCETS, DACFE, was a renowned professor and prolific writer. He taught at various universities for 35 years and wrote more than 250 journal articles and 38 books or book chapters.

Article

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

George T. Patterson

Harvey Treger (1924–2016) was a pioneer in the social work profession, breaking new ground for social work practice in law enforcement agencies. Under Treger’s leadership, police social work was started as a new specialty area of social work practice. His groundbreaking vision for police social work practice continues to evolve to the present (2021), as progressively more law enforcement agencies either hire or establish collaborations with social workers, and community stakeholders recognize the need for a social work response to community social problems instead of law enforcement.

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

Carrie Pettus

After a period of mass incarceration that spanned the 1970s through the 2010s, the United States remains the leading incarcerator in the world. Incarceration rates in the United States outpace those of other countries by several hundred per 100,000. Incarceration rates began to decline slightly in 2009, when there was a loss of fiscal, political, and moral will for mass incarceration policy and practices. First, the onset of smart decarceration approaches, the historical context from which smart decarceration stems, and the societal momentum that led to the conceptualization of smart decarceration are described. Smart decarceration is a lead strategy in social work that has been adopted by the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare as one of the 12 Grand Challenges for Social Work for the decade 2015–2025. Finally, an overview of the current status of smart decarceration and details shifts and initiatives to pursue at the intersection of social work and smart decarceration is provided.

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

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

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

Yin-Ling Irene Wong and Claudia J. Vogelsang

Homelessness is a major social problem in the United States. The article starts with an overview of homelessness in American history, followed by the definition of contemporary homelessness, its prevalence, and the composition and diverse characteristics of the homeless population. Contrasting perspectives on what causes homelessness are discussed, while the multidimensionality of the homeless experience is explored. The unique experiences of three subpopulations, including homeless persons who are involved in criminal justice, emerging youth leaving foster care, and older homeless persons are further featured. Public and community responses to homelessness are examined, highlighting evidence-based and emerging practices that aim at reducing and preventing homelessness. A discussion of international homelessness follows, as homelessness is recognized as a global issue affecting people living in poverty in both the developed and developing world. The article concludes with discussion of the implications for social work.