“Criminal” Justice Social Work in the United States: Fulfilling the Obligation of Social Work
Mika’il DeVeaux

Social work and so-called “criminal justice” were made for each other. The two belong together given the core values and principles of social work. The intersection between modern day social work and criminal justice issues has historical roots dating back to the 19th century and include an understanding that structural and environmental forces beyond individual control are related to crime without ignoring individual responsibility. The old relationship has ceased to exist. Public sentiment about rehabilitation and the treatment of people convicted of crime in favor of more punitive responses to crime at the onset of the era of mass incarceration is cited as a major cause of the end of social work’s more intimate union with criminal justice. The aim here is to call attention to social work’s agreed upon ethical responsibilities to the broader society in an effort to encourage a renewed social work involvement in so-called criminal justice matters. It is believed that a return to social work’s core values will facilitate rethinking about carceral matters in the context of a broader social agenda related to the enhancement of “living conditions conducive to the fulfillment of basic human needs” and the promotion of “social, economic, political, and cultural values and institutions that are compatible with the realization of social justice” (National Association of Social Workers, 2008). The author suggests that that return needs first to take place in social work learning establishments.

Full Text: PDF