Session: Invited Symposium II:The Road to Abolition: Slavery, Mass Incarceration, and Social Work in 2020 (Society for Social Work and Research 24th Annual Conference - Reducing Racial and Economic Inequality)

187 Invited Symposium II:The Road to Abolition: Slavery, Mass Incarceration, and Social Work in 2020

Saturday, January 18, 2020: 8:00 AM-9:30 AM
Independence BR Salons D/E (ML 4) (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
Kirk James, PhD, New York University, Cameron Rasmussen, MSW, CUNY Graduate Center and Tanisha "Wakumi" Douglas, No affiliation
The rhetoric of ending “mass criminalization,” “mass incarceration,” and advancing “racial justice” are relatively new concepts in the historical struggle for equity and shared humanity in the United States –– yet what do these concepts really mean, and how do we achieve them? In her groundbreaking book, “The New Jim Crow,” Michelle Alexander (2010) illustrates that not only are more Black men incarcerated today than were enslaved in 1850, but that Black men, women, and children are significantly overrepresented in every facet of the “justice” system. Alexander further points out that this overrepresentation is not accidental, or related to inherent "criminal" tendencies or actual crime rates, but is the result of an intentional strategy designed post-chattel slavery to continue the legalized control, exploitation, and oppression of Black bodies in America. Alexander's assertion is further substantiated by decades of quantitative and qualitative data from impacted people and academics –– which then begs the question: What is the responsibility of the social work profession in addressing this human rights crisis?

This plenary will begin to explore that question by analyzing and discussing:

1. The evolution of slavery in America under the guise of the “justice" system; 2. The system's varied impact and intersection to Social Work practice at all levels; 3. And finally, theories and practices from “Reform” to “Abolition” that social workers can utilize in their respective fields of practice to advance equity, justice, and liberation.

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