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Social Work in the (In)Justice System

Incidents of racist police brutality highlight the need for social work to examine its relationship with the larger criminal (in)justice system. This resource describes ways to engage social work students in a critical approach to practice within this system. It highlights work that identifies key deficiencies in the adult and juvenile systems and how these systems have been used as tools to control people of color, especially in Black communities. It also addresses the longstanding debate that has currently surfaced regarding whether we need to reform or dismantle our broken justice system.

The resources are organized in a way that covers the entirety of the system—from prevention to reentry. It starts with entry into the system and an overview of prevention efforts, moves to conditions of confinement, then unduly long-term sentencing, and finally to reentry, which signals the continuation of a self-perpetuating cycle. Works on gender-responsive approaches to the different needs of men/boys and women/girls are included.
 

TEACHING RESOURCES

The resources include recommended books, articles, reports, films, podcasts, and websites. Links have been provided where available. To provide further insight into how to structure a class, links to syllabi that look at these systems of (in)justice critically are included. The syllabus by contributor Dr. Aaron Gottlieb for his course Policy Approaches to Reforming the Adult Criminal Justice System is also included. Overall, the resources are organized as they apply to the adult criminal justice system, women in the criminal justice system, and the juvenile justice system.

Guide to Best Practices for Social Work in the Adult Criminal Justice System
Best Practices for Social Work With Women in the Adult Criminal Justice System Women  
Best Practices for Social Work in the Juvenile Justice System
Syllabus: Policy Approaches to Reforming the Adult Criminal Justice System


Contributors
Henrika McCoy, PhD, MJ, MSW, is an associate professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago Jane Addams College of Social Work. Her research focuses on the intersection between mental health needs and juvenile offending behavior for African American boys as well as the violent victimization experiences of young Black men. Dr. McCoy’s work has been supported by the National Institute for Justice, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the National Institute for Minority Health and Health Disparities.

Branden A. McLeod, PhD, MSW, is an assistant professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago Jane Addams College of Social Work. Dr. McLeod’s research examines the intersection of fatherhood and the involvement of the criminal (in)justice system. His research unpacks how this system potentially attenuates the role of fathers and the factors that mitigate, sustain, and strengthen paternal involvement and family well-being.

Melissa Mahabir, MSW, LMSW, is a social worker with expertise in domestic violence, trauma, and sentencing mitigation. She has worked for many years with criminalized survivors at STEPS to End Family Violence and the Legal Aid Society in New York, is a board member of Reentry Rocks (a nonprofit reentry organization for women), and is currently helping to lead implementation of the New York Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act (a newly passed law that offers domestic violence survivors more sentencing discretion and currently incarcerated survivors an opportunity for resentencing).

Aaron Gottlieb, PhD, is an assistant professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago Jane Addams College of Social Work. Dr. Gottlieb’s research examines policy approaches for reducing incarceration and racial disparities in incarceration. He teaches courses in criminal justice policy and is actively working toward increasing police accountability through community oversight. He was recently appointed to Chicago’s Police Use of Force Work Group, a collaborative project of community members, the mayor’s office, and the Chicago Police Department.