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American Social Work, Corrections and Restorative Justice: An Appraisal

Gumz, Edward J
June 4, 2015

Source: (2004) International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology. 48(4): 449-460.

Historically, American social work has been involved in the field of corrections through probation casework, participation in the founding of the juvenile court, and rehabilitative work with inmates in correctional institutions. When the ethic of rehabilitation in corrections waned under the doctrine of retribution for its own sake, the role of social workers in corrections also diminished; however, this change in correctional philosophy was not the only factor in the decline of social work in corrections. The priorities of the social work profession also changed, as it has increasingly focused on psychotherapy while moving away from a focus on community service. The objectives of obtaining higher salaries and professional status have led to a shift away from working with at-risk or disfranchised population, such as persons in correctional settings. Yet social workers continue to be involved with the children of inmates and the treatment of drug-abusing offenders. Also, social workers provide many of the mental health services received by mentally ill offenders. Restorative justice, an emerging influential model for criminal justice, including corrections, focuses on repairing the harm done by an offense by involving the victim, the offender, and the community in interactions, deliberations, and actions that address victims’ needs, offenders’ needs to be accountable and change criminal behaviors, and the community’s need to improve public safety and victim services. The emphases of restorative justice may attract more social workers to corrections enterprises. Abstract courtesy of National Criminal Justice Reference Service,


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