Social Work Related to Criminal Justice


SocialWork Related to Criminal Justice

SocialWork Related to Criminal Justice

Socialworkers play a critical role in facilitating the success of thecriminal justice system. Social workers provide clinical or directservices to alleged offenders and victims of crime (Gary, &ampHoward University, 2004). They collaborate with attorneys and otherofficers in the court system to aid crime victims to understand theformalities of the legal process. They also help them to recoverfrom the trauma that comes with going through a heinous or violentcriminal incident. They also help defendants to understand theirlegal rights and obligations during court proceedings and inpreparing them for rehabilitation. For example, forensic socialworkers have been very instrumental in drafting reports such asprofile reports of defendants so that the jury and attorneys have aglimpse of the kind of person they will be involved with duringlitigation. In criminal justice system, social workers have aprimary role of providing direct services to clients. They canperform other roles as well. They can be involved in advocacy if theyrealize malpractices that are likely to cause a miscarriage ofjustice for both the defendant and the victim of crime. The servicesdiffer for the victim and the offender. For many of social workers,working with defendants requires a different set of skills many ofthem opt not to work in environments where they provide services tooffenders. Providing services to a victim of crime necessitatesempathy. Some of them find it easier and convenient to empathize witha victim of crime. However, when working with an offender, some ofthem may find it difficult to be emphatic particularly depending uponthe type of crime the offender is accused of. Social workers areneeded to organize, develop, initiate, and administer programs thatbolster the dispensation of justice criminal cases, at the local butalso at the state and national levels. Areas where they have been andcontinue to play a central role are conflict resolution and highcrime.

Rolesof Social Workers in Criminal Justice

Thelimited space in the contemporary criminal justice system makes itquite impossible to delineate all of the areas that need thecontributions of social work. Thus, there are certain within thecriminal justice system that social workers can provide their servicefor effective provision of justice for victims. The highlighted areasare not exhausted, but they appear to be more important incontemporary terms. They include:

Highrates of incarceration: Although, they are already playing thiscritical role in alternative services for incarcerated offenders,there is still more to initiate in terms of ensuring that the systemkeeps up with the rate of incarceration. They can providecommunity-based alternatives such as diversion, treating convictedoffenders, providing counseling services and support, employment, andhousing programs. For instance, expenditures for correctionalprograms have increased tremendously across the world without thecommensurate increase in the effectiveness despite the changes.Further investigation reveals that the money was mostly spent oncustody and control leading to little essential change that couldhelp the system to keep up with the increased rate of incarceration.Thus, it provides an opportunity for social workers to include theirservices in providing other alternative services to incarcerationthat can still achieve the same correctional objectives of thecriminal justice system. Furthermore, their advocacy can guideauthorities to shift or increase expenditure in equipping socialworkers with the capacity to provide the same alternatives.

Juvenilestried as adults: there has been a notable increase in the number ofjuveniles that waived as adults in criminal cases since the 1990s.They are sentenced to adult prisons despite the fact they are notadults (Roberts &amp Springer, 2006). The trend is as a result of anincreased juvenile “blip” that began in 1990s and perfected inthe early 2000s. It is also a result of the statutory adjustmentsthat happened in most of the fifty states in the United States andinternational statutes on juvenile law. The changes permitted courtsystems in the United States and other countries to process juvenilesinto the adult system. This is a point of concern for social workersbecause the rate of crime among juveniles has declined increasinglysince 1995. However, the number of youths who are incarcerated andsentenced as adults continues even as the rates of juvenile crimedeclines. Little work to find out the competence of these convictedjuveniles with respect to their awareness of culpability andvulnerability. No efforts have also been made to ascertain thecompetence of these juveniles in handling adjudicative proceedings.Social workers have tried to document the failure of the currentpolicy framework to address this challenge. There is still more theycan do to point out the findings from different brain developmentexperts that there should be a comprehensive assessment of thecompetence of juveniles. They can also suggest alternativeprogressing and treatment that factors in the flaws of the criminaljustice systems for juveniles.

Genderresponsive programs for women and children: Programs targetedcriminal convicts mainly target male offenders. This is possiblybecause the majority of offenders are males for the firstincarceration (Llewellyn, Agu, &amp Mercer, 2008). Social workershave been quite concerned about of this trend because there are manyfemale offenders increasingly being convicted of the same crimes.With the increase in institutional populations, there has been littlerecognition of their needs as they are different from those of maleconvicts. Social workers play a pivotal role in ensuring thatgender-sensitive programs exist in all institutions. They haveorganized advocacies that compel state and federal institutionsmandated with criminal justice to train staff to recognize andrespond appropriately to individual and social needs of females. Forexample, more women offenders who are incarcerated serious substanceabuse problems do not have adequate prison and jail that can treattheir problems. Social workers write proposals to authorities so thatthey can provide counseling and other social needs to such femaleprisoners. Physical and mental health needs of female convicts oftendiffer substantially from those of males (Van &amp Bartollas, 2011).Thus, social workers still need to do more to call for the provisionof necessary services that are sensitive to both genders.

Servicesfor mental health patients: Today there are more mentally ill peoplefinding their way into prisons for different reasons. The trendfollows increased unfortunate changes in the mental health systems inmost countries including the United States. It has happens when theyare picked up on the street by law enforcement officers or when theycommit a crime a crime as a result of their mental problem. It is,therefore, possible that very few of them receive adequate andappropriate treatment in correctional institutions. This is an areawhere workers in the social sector have a lot to do. Very few ofmentally-ill convicts receive adequate forensic programs that canascertain their condition in a manner that factors in theircondition.

Substanceabuse: There are more people being incarcerated for crimes related tosubstance abuse. Other is on correctional supervision and prisons forthe same reason. This is more than any other single law. Socialworkers have and continue to advocate for urgent evaluation andchange so that addicted persons receive treatment not just forpunishment. They have also been part of community efforts needed tohave a comprehensive approach to substance abuse. The criminaljustice system through social workers should also bring to attentionthe fact that middle-class persons with insurance and other resourcesobtain treatment while poor prisoners are thrust into prisons withouttreatment.

Childwelfare drifts: This is one of the highly disturbing issues in thesystem of juvenile justice and then to the adult criminal justicesystem. It is also a growing trend that most social worker’s groupscontinue to deal with in the judiciary. Child welfare clientscomprise of victims of abuse and neglect and they have no access tocomprehensive habilitation programs. They end up in the criminaljustice system for minor problems, which are seldom resolved. Thelack of integrated services for children and youth in the criminaljustice system is also an aspect that social workers have stronglyadvocated against. It contributes the increasing risks of childrengetting into the criminal justice system. For instance, socialworkers in a California district court were part of a comprehensiveplan that introduced youth services systems that were integrated sothat they can receive appropriate services promptly in an optimalenvironment.

Reentryand reintegration programs: Social workers play a critical role indeveloping and implementing different re-entry and reintegrationprograms for offenders returning the can community after serving aprison term. They do so by providing institutional settings that canaccommodate a former prisoner without alienating them. For instance,over 600,000 offenders return to the community annually in the UnitedStates (Van &amp Bartollas, 2011). A majority of them are likely torecidivate within the first two years after returning prison. Thus,social workers through community re-integration programs assist themto begin reintegration into the community. According the AmericanPsychological Association, offenders that receive family supportthrough education, employment, and housing are likely to reintegratefaster than those who do not. Social workers have the relevanttraining to provide the much-needed support for former inmatesbecause they understand their psychological and physical needs. Notall families have the facilities to provide these support measures.


Itis worth mentioning that social workers do not just stop theircontributions in the courts but they continue even in thecommunities. It is easy to conclude that their presence is dominantat community level. However, they also help prosecutors and defenseattorneys in obtaining and compiling profiles of litigant. Throughoutthe criminal justice system, the participation of social workers isimmense. Thus, governmental and non-governmental bodies should beinvolved in ensuring they continue to be part of the justice systemby equipping them with the resources they need. Current policyframeworks should prioritize enabling social workers to bridge thegap between capacity and the increasing challenges in the criminaljustice system.


Gary,L. E., Howard University., &amp Howard University. (2004). Socialwork in criminal justice settings.Washington: Institute for Urban Affairs and Research, HowardUniversity.

Llewellyn,A., Agu, L., &amp Mercer, D. (2008). Sociologyfor social workers.Cambridge: Polity.

Roberts,A. R., &amp Springer, D. W. (2006). Socialwork in juvenile and criminal justice settings.Springfield, Ill: Charles C Thomas.

Van,W. K. S., &amp Bartollas, C. (2011). Womenand the criminal justice system.Boston, Mass: Prentice Hall.