The four papers in this symposium explore a range of criminal justice interventions: policing, deferred prosecution, mental health courts, and probation. Each panelist presents analyses examining racial, gender, economic, behavioral, and spatial-level disparities in the administration of the aforementioned interventions. Police practices have been thrust into national scrutiny following the broadcast of police-inflicted homicides such as Decynthia Clements, Reika Boyd, Lacquan McDonald, Michael Brown, and Freddy Gray. Public discourse and academic investigation on improving police-community relationships cite how certain communities are ‘over-policed' and as a result disproportionately represented within penal institutions. This symposium examines policing practices and how they impact transgender adults drawing from a sample of 300 young transgender women in Chicago and Boston.
Deferred prosecution programs offer an upstream diversion from deeper criminal justice involvement wherein participants can have their case dismissed and avoid the collateral consequences of a formal conviction. The second paper in this symposium examines data on over 7,000 participants in three deferred prosecution programs. Program completion and case dismissal rates indicate that these programs may hold significant promise for upstream diversion, and point to the need to target particular groups for enhanced program retention.
Mental health courts are a form of specialty courts organized with the intention of promoting collaboration from criminal justice and mental health practitioners. The courts generally process cases of nonviolent offenders with a diagnosed mental illness and provide coordinated services to improve criminal justice outcomes and overall wellbeing of the client. This symposium provides a critical analysis using ethnographic fieldwork on how risk is conceptualized within such settings and the implications for legal proceedings and quality of life outcomes for those involved.
Finally, probation in Cook County, Illinois is explored through a spatial analysis of a 10-year data-set including all closed felony and misdemeanor-level cases. Probation is typically viewed as a cost-effective alternative to incarceration that allows for the individual to stay in community. Despite the community-centered administration of probation, the role of community context in predicting probation outcomes has yet to be examined.
The four papers in this symposium employ a variety of methodological approaches to better understand to what extent a range of criminal justice interventions contribute to more socially just outcomes. The symposium discusses implications for such interventions for both social work practice and public policy. The implications of such interventions are explored across ecological dimensions, ranging from individual-level effects to neighborhood-level effects.