Session: Advancing the Goals of Smart Decarceration: Lessons from an Examination of Policies That Affect Individuals with Criminal Justice Involvement (Society for Social Work and Research 24th Annual Conference - Reducing Racial and Economic Inequality)

304 Advancing the Goals of Smart Decarceration: Lessons from an Examination of Policies That Affect Individuals with Criminal Justice Involvement

Sunday, January 19, 2020: 9:45 AM-11:15 AM
Marquis BR Salong 13, ML 2 (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
Cluster: Crime and Criminal Justice (C&CJ)
Symposium Organizer:
Pajarita Charles, PhD, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Nazgol Ghandnoosh, PhD, The Sentencing Project
The extensive expansion of the U.S. criminal justice system over the last four decades resulted in mass incarceration and an unprecedented social justice crisis among some of society's most marginalized and vulnerable groups. ”Promote Smart Decarceration”, one of the 12 Grand Challenges for Social Work, was launched in response to this crisis with the goals of reducing the incarcerated population, addressing disparities in the criminal justice system, and maximizing public safety. This work is underway and is being used to advance innovations that are empirically driven and socially just. Doing so, however, requires ongoing and vigilant examination of current policies and practices that affect those who are incarcerated and have histories of criminal justice involvement. Understanding what policies exist, how they are implemented, and what the evidence is for their effectiveness is necessary to reduce incarceration and address racial and ethnic disparities in the criminal justice system. This symposium is aimed at understanding these questions bringing together an innovative collection of papers that examine policies at multiple levels with direct implications for the future of smart decarceration.

The first paper uses recently collected data from all CSWE-accredited MSW programs to evaluate the extent to which criminal background information is collected from applicants and how it is used to inform graduate admission's decisions. This innovative study, the first of its kind to our knowledge, sheds light on the prevalence of these graduate admissions practices and raises critical questions about their evidence for ensuring safety on campuses, as well as their incongruency with the profession's commitment to social justice and smart decarceration efforts. The second paper examines a broad set of reforms used to address collateral consequences resulting from laws and regulations that deny people with a felony from civic goods such as public housing, employment, Medicaid, voting and others. The study identified reform practices being used to address these collateral consequences (e.g., ban the box policies) and importantly, which policies are both evidence-informed and have political support and momentum among government officials. The study builds on our understanding of how to bridge research and practice so that law makers can implement policies that are most likely to be successful and based on empirical knowledge. The third and final paper does an in-depth examination of a set of state-level reforms intended to reduce the prison population in California due to overcrowding. Considered one of the largest decarceration efforts in U.S. history, this paper improves our understanding of how such reform efforts, while reducing incarceration rates, may unintentionally exacerbate racial, ethnic, and gender disparities in the criminal justice system.

Together, the papers illustrate the importance of using multiple perspectives, methods, and data sources to advance the empirical knowledge base about the evolving U.S. criminal justice reform policy landscape. In an era when reform practices and policies are increasingly being developed and implemented, it is imperative to ensure that these decarceration and related efforts are indeed “smart” and are backed by sound reasoning and evidence.

* noted as presenting author
The Box in Social Work Education: Prevalence and Correlates of Criminal History Questions on MSW Applications
Matt Epperson, PhD, University of Chicago; Mario McHarris, BA, University of Chicago; Bethany Ulrich, University of Chicago; Leon Sawh, MPH, University of Chicago
State Reforms to Justice-Related Collateral Consequences: Policies in All 50 States from 2010 to 2017
Chris Veeh, PhD, University of Iowa; Carrie Pettus-Davis, PhD, Florida State University
Were California's Decarceration Efforts Smart? a Quasi-Experimental Examination of Racial, Ethnic, and Gender Disparities
Aaron Gottlieb, University of Illinois at Chicago; Pajarita Charles, PhD, University of Wisconsin-Madison; Jean Kjellstrand, PhD, University of Oregon; Branden McLeod, PhD, University of Illinois at Chicago; Janaé Bonsu, University of Illinois at Chicago
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