Social Work, Social Justice and the Challenge of Criminalization
What does the current state of the criminal justice system mean for social workers whose concern is the wellbeing of oppressed people and communities? What does this mean for social workers directly engaged with the criminal justice system? What are the implications for social welfare systems and social work as a field?
The papers featured in this symposium examine these questions from a variety of perspectives. The first paper employs a comparative historical case study to examine the shifting relationship between social work, social movement and the criminal justice system as domestic violence first emerged as a critical social problem. The second paper explores the consequences of competing processes that simultaneously legitimate and resist service system coordination within the contemporary context of Sexual Assault Response Teams, which bring together rape crisis centers, criminal justice, and health care systems. The third paper focuses on the complex social welfare implications of contemporary decarceration reforms in California resulting from the recent Supreme Court mandate to reduce the state’s bloated prison population.
These three research papers and moderated discussion offer a timely opportunity for social work researchers to take into account the complex relationship between social work and the criminal justice system; the implications of penal policy on various stakeholders including service users, social workers, policy makers and law enforcement actors; and the critical role of social work research in documenting, analyzing and ameliorating the effects of criminalization and over-criminalization in our social environment.