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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

Out-of-School Suspension of African American Youth and Progressive Education Alternatives  

Wendy Haight and Priscilla Gibson

Racial disproportionality in out-of-school suspensions (suspensions) is a persistent, multi-level social justice and child well-being issue affecting not only youth, families, and schools but society as a whole. It is a complex, multiple-level social problem that will require an equally complex response. The design of effective remedies will require adequate understanding of the problem as well as the historical and sociocultural contexts in which it emerged and is perpetuated. Progressive educators have offered a number of alternatives to harsh and exclusionary discipline, but research is needed to examine their effectiveness, especially in reducing racial disproportionalities.

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 Justice  

Darcey H. Merritt, Rachel D. Ludeke, Krushika Uday Patankar, Muthoni Mahachi, and Morgan Buck

Racial justice remains a hot-button issue in the United States, particularly in the aftermath of several high-profile murders of Black and Brown people due to state-sanctioned violence. There is an increased need to explore how racial injustice remains prevalent intentionally and comprehensively in all aspects of micro, mezzo, and macro social work practice. Racism is pervasive in the social work profession, and it is therefore important to address the ways in which it underpins established human service systems (e.g., public assistance and child welfare).

Article

Brown, W. Gertrude  

Sadye L. M. Logan

Willie G. Brown, later known as W. Gertrude Brown (1888–1939), was a phenomenal woman and an activist for racial justice and the rights of women and children.

Article

Community Organizing  

Geoffrey W. Wilkinson, Lee Staples, Ashley Slay, and Iliana Panameño

Community organizing centers the leadership of community members in developing and controlling organizations created to express, sustain, and build community power through action for social justice. It is distinguished from other forms of community practice by the ethos, “nothing about us without us,” and may combine elements of community development, direct action, popular education, and community action research. Community organizing promotes individual and collective empowerment. It is practiced in communities of geography, identity, shared experience, and other arenas. In the United States, organizing takes three major approaches to building sustainable bases of community power—organizations formed through individual membership, institutional networks, and coalitions. Innovations in community organizing arising particularly from the leadership of women and people of color—known as transformational organizing—take an intersectional approach to addressing racism, sexism, homophobia, and other forms of systemic oppression while also addressing the personal and social needs of community members. Organizing increasingly takes advantage of internet technology and is effective for influencing legislation and electoral politics, as well as a wide range of community-based issues.

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

The National Association of Black Social Workers  

Patricia Reid-Merritt

Founded in May 1968, in San Francisco, California, the National Association of Black Social Workers (NABSW) is the premiere organization of Black social service and social welfare workers devoted exclusively to the development of professional social workers in the Black community. Committed to a philosophy of self-help and self-determination, the mission of the NABSW is to prepare workers to assume responsibility as advocates of social change and social justice, and to actively engage in the fight for racial equality and social liberation for the African ascendant community. The organization is open to all members of the African diasporic community, regardless of educational achievement, occupational status or political, religious, institutional or social affiliations.

Article

Wiley, George  

Jean K. Quam

George Wiley (1931–1973) was a reformer, organizer, and social activist. He is credited with organizing poor people into a significant political force in the United States during the late 1960s and early 1970s. He founded the Poverty/Rights Action Center in Washington, DC.

Article

Settlements and Neighborhood Centers  

Robert Fisher, Michael Fabricant, and Lukas Champagne

Settlement houses are one prism through which the contested history of macro social work can be viewed. The early settlements spearheaded social reform while building community solidarity. Historic shifts in the political economy changed the work of settlements, particularly the development of neighborhood houses. The dynamic interplay in the past decades between the corporatization of not-for-profit culture, shrinking government funding, and a redefinition of settlement services have particularly affected settlement work. The traditional view of settlements and neighborhood centers, that located people of color, especially Black people who addressed structural barriers and offered transformative solutions, outside its gaze has missed a good deal of history. Needless to say, this is not meant to be an all-inclusive listing of resources and readings nor the last word on settlement macro practice and macro challenges.