1) Law Enforcement: Social Workers partner up with police officers to engage in community policing, which emphasizes problem-solving, partnerships, prevention, and organizational change with efforts to improve the relationship between police and the public (DiNitto & McNeece p. 314).
- Social work roles and responsibilities involve going with the police on initial calls, or on their own the following day to provide case-management services (referral, assessment, interim services, emotional support to victims, follow up visits to home, counseling and development of service plans). (DiNitto & McNeece p. 314-315)
2) The courts: In this area, social workers mainly work in pre-trail diversion services, the preparation of pre-sentence investigations, and in victim and witness assistance programs.
- Pre-trial Services: Social Workers work with defendants to make sure they are fulfilling the conditions of their contract to avoid facing formal prosecution. Social Workers utilize their case management, counseling skills, knowledge of special populations and an ecological perspective to aid them in this work (DiNitto & McNeece p. 317).
- Victim & Witness Assistance Program: In this area, social workers provide a range of services including crisis counseling; Trauma assessment; referrals to address immediate needs related to safety, shelter, and transportation, orientation to the judicial process; follow-up visits, and referrals to social service agencies for long-term needs (DiNitto & McNeece p. 318).
- Specialized Courts- A new and developing area for social work employment, includes working with defendants with persistent problems (drug-related charges or charges involving mental health or domestic violence) that contribute to their involvement in the criminal justice system. For example, social workers can work in death penalty mitigation investigations, in which they provide the jury with information about the client’s life history so that they might consider the punishment of life in prison without the benefit of parole rather than the death penalty. (DiNitto & McNeece p. 318)
3) Corrections: Social workers may take on a variety roles within correctional facilities depending on their degree; social workers with an undergraduate degree may be employed as corrections counselor, in which they conduct assessments, provide information about adjusting to the facility, engage in crisis intervention, participate in mediation and assist with problem resolution, provide short-term counseling and group work, advocate adequate services and treatment & promote safety and security by heling minimize tension and participating in inmate housing placement decisions (DiNitto & McNeece p. 321).
- Social workers might also provide education and treatment in a specific area, such as drug and alcohol abuse counseling. (DiNitto & McNeece p. 321)
- Social workers might also work with prisoners in planning and assisting them with their re-entry to the community (DiNitto & McNeece p. 322)
4) Alternatives to Incarceration:
- Social workers may work alongside probation and parole officers in correctional supervision to ensure these individuals are doing their best so that their charges comply with both standard and special conditions of probation or parole (DiNitto & McNeece p. 322).
- (some are social workers) Officer duties include visiting probationers & parolee’s homes or employment sites, developing service plans reviewing requirement plans with clients, assisting with drug testing, making arrests when violations occur, & encouraging clients to make positive life changes (DiNitto & McNeece p. 323).
5) Juvenile Justice System:
- Much of the work social workers do within the juvenile justice system occurs at the stage of prevention and diversion and in probation. Social workers are employed in community based agencies or group homes, where they provide services such as assessment, case management, and individual and group counseling for youths (DiNitto & McNeece p. 328).
- They are also employed in detention facilities, providing mental health and other counseling or treatment services for youth who are detained or serving sentences (DiNitto & McNeece p. 328).
6) Unique Contributions to work in the Criminal Justice System
- Social Workers possess a different set of skills & knowledge that provide them with a different way of viewing & working within the criminal justice system. Social work is based on the philosophy of self-determination and the belief that people can change for the better. Rather than operating from a controlling and authoritative position, social workers provide care & treatment to clients in a non-judgmental way such that they seek to empower, understand, and assist their clients in yielding the best possible outcomes even in the worst conditions. Social work aims to move towards a justice system that is rehabilitative and restorative rather than one focused on punishment and retribution (DiNitto & McNeece p. 331).
DiNitto, D., & McNeece, C. (2008). Social work: Issues and opportunities in a challenging profession (3rd ed.). Chicago, IL: Lyceum Books.