Session: Reflections on the Contradictions and Possibilities of Abolitionist Praxis in Social Work (Society for Social Work and Research 26th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Racial, Social, and Political Justice)

121 Reflections on the Contradictions and Possibilities of Abolitionist Praxis in Social Work

Friday, January 14, 2022: 2:00 PM-3:30 PM
Marquis BR Salon 10, ML 2 (Marriott Marquis Washington, DC)
Cluster: Crime and Criminal Justice
Mimi Kim, PhD, California State University, Long Beach, Alan Dettlaff, PhD, University of Houston and Bethany Murray, University of California, Los Angeles
In the past year, blatant forms of state violence within the United States have re-ignited energy and attention from the field of social work where numerous calls have been made to realign and reconsider our standing ethical values and principles. Amongst these calls for a critical reflection, many social workers have started to align with abolitionist praxis, demanding the dismantling of the prison-industrial complex and other interlocking carceral systems. This is due, in part, to a growing recognition that social work research and practice have become increasingly entangled in various carceral attachments that are fueled by ideologies like white supremacy and carceral feminism. Social workers are beginning to reckon with the field's role within the carceral ecosystem and reimaging what practice looks like outside of the confines of the carceral state. This reimagination of providing abolitionist community care is one that Black communities, Indigenous communities, and communities of color have long been engaging and iterating on despite the ubiquitous and relentless state violence inflicted on them. Abolitionist practices, including transformative justice practices like community accountability and mutual aid, aim to exist outside of the arms and reliance of policing. Although there has been increasing recognition around anti-carceral care and abolitionist praxis this year, they still remain largely invisible or dismissed in social work discourse with many people questioning abolition's possibility, utility, and convergence with our already established code of ethics. The roundtable session will open a space of dialogue around the role of social workers and social work practice within criminal justice and child welfare abolition. Additionally it will span the theoretical and practical significance of anti-carceral feminism, transformative justice, and social movements in our work. The dialogue will begin to create space to think through the paradoxes and challenges in imagining what a counter-hegemonic anti-carceral future might look like and the role social workers can play in carrying this out in social work practice, policy, and research. Presenters will focus particular attention on the convergence and divergence of our code of ethics with abolitionist praxis, with critical attention to how the policing and carceral state spans multiple systems that social workers are involved with. Two presenters will discuss how the police and carceral state expands beyond the criminal justice system into the child welfare or family policing system, including discussions around the relevance of various forms of technologies and tactics used by social workers. Two presenters will discuss the role of anti-carceral feminism and social movements in social work research and practice. All four presenters will discuss how their various work, research, and experiences have necessitated a movement towards abolition and anti-carceral practices like transformative justice and mutual aid. Our goal is to create a space for discussions about the complex realities and opportunities of social work practice and anti-carceral abolitionist futures as a way to address harm without utilizing state violence, surveillance, and policing.

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