Social Work & Criminal Justice

Teaching Resources

Below you will find information about social work courses that cover material about criminal justice. You are welcome to use material that you find on this page as long as you give the author credit.

ADVANCED SOCIAL WELFARE POLICY: JUVENILE JUSTICE

Author Reference: Laura S. Abrams

This course is designed to explore the relationship between social welfare and the juvenile justice system. Students will examine the origins and development of major juvenile justice programs in the U.S. and the policies guiding them. There will be an emphasis on issues related to systems change and policy advocacy as well as the impact of policy on the implementation of social welfare services. The course will examine individual and juvenile justice system needs and the capacity of social welfare programs to meet these needs as well as the impact of social policies, on different populations.

​Click here to download the syllabus.

DYNAMIC SYSTEMS CHANGE: CLINICAL SOCIAL WORK PRACTICE & CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM

Author Reference: Julian Adler & Kate Barrow

This mini-course will utilize a laboratory model to prepare social work students for criminal justice settings by integrating case studies, applied ethics, relational theories, anti-oppressive praxis, and systems change perspectives.

​Click here to download the syllabus.

FORENSIC SOCIAL WORK

Author Reference: Susan McCarter

Forensic social work is the application of social work to questions and issues relating to judicial and legal systems. This specialty of the social work profession includes, but is not limited to: child custody issues, implications of child abuse and domestic violence, juvenile and adult justice services, corrections, competency and commitment, civil liberties and rights, mass incarceration, and probation and parole. The purpose of this course is to introduce students to forensic social work topics, settings, and professionals. 

​Click here to download the syllabus.

FORENSIC SOCIAL WORK: A SOCIAL JUSTICE SYSTEMS APPROACH

Author Reference: Tina Maschi

This course provides an overview of forensic social work practice and theory. Additionally, it illustrates skills for working with diverse populations across the lifespan and across diverse settings, such as community, medical, school, child welfare, mental health and addictions, and juvenile and criminal justice settings.

​Click here to download the syllabus.

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JUVENILE DELINQUENCY

Author Reference: Wesley T. Church II

This course examines the nature and extent of delinquency. Theories of causation and the structure, function and problems of the justice system are explored. The course will review programs and services for the prevention, control, and treatment of offenders and their families: evaluating the capacity and strengths of offenders and their families, peer groups and the community. This course evaluates how oppression, deprivation, and various forms of discrimination affect the juvenile offender and victims. Agency practices regarding juveniles and their families will also be covered.

​Click here to download the syllabus.

POLICY APPROACHES TO REFORMING THE ADULT CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM

Author Reference: Aaron Gottlieb

In Policy Approaches to Reforming the Adult Criminal Justice System, we will spend equal time exploring policy problems and policy solutions at each stage of the criminal justice system. In particular, we will focus on policing, the period after arrest but prior to sentencing, sentencing, conditions of confinement, community reentry, and gender-responsiveness….This class is intended for social workers who may be interested in community organizing around criminal justice reform, engaging in policy reform, and who want to better understand the policies impacting justice-involved individuals. Social workers can play a significant role in criminal justice reform, and this class will help equip you with a foundational understanding of how you can be involved in transforming a system of control and oppression into one of healing and justice.

​Click here to download the syllabus.

RESTORATIVE APPROACHES IN SOCIAL WORK

Author Reference: Shannon Sliva

This course applies the conceptual framework, strategies, and benefits of restorative approaches to social worker roles and responsibilities. This course is designed to help students develop a historical and theoretical understanding of restorative approaches, build restorative-based skills that can be used in a variety of roles, and apply restorative approaches to a variety of client population systems, settings, and needs. Ethical dilemmas, cultural competence, and decision- making in restorative approaches, and the impact this has on oppressed populations, will be discussed.

​Click here to download the syllabus.

SMART DECARCERATION: A GRAND CHALLENGE FOR SOCIAL WORK

Author Reference: Matt Epperson

This course will extend our understanding of the U.S. criminal justice system, how it intersects with the social work profession and client systems, and how social workers can promote social justice at these critical junctures.

​Click here to download the syllabus.

SMART DECARCERATION PRACTICE BEHAVIORS FOR SOCIAL WORK COMPETENCIES

Author Reference: Phillipe Copeland, Daniel Jacob, Diane Young, Annie Grier, Stephanie Kennedy, Stephen Tripodi

This document provides guidance for instructors and students on incorporating “smart decarceration” as a focus for social work education. It does so in a format that follows the CSWE social work competencies, incorporating smart decarceration-related practice behaviors for ready application in classroom curricula and field practicums.

This document serves the following purposes:

• Edit the existing generalist practice behaviors to include mass incarceration and smart decarceration concepts. As well, provide specialized practice behaviors for the guidance and evaluation of learning and professional development of social work students in criminal justice settings,

• Provide smart decarceration-focused competencies and practice behaviors to develop syllabi and curriculum for courses,

• Ensure that students adhere to overall social work competencies and practice behaviors while providing social work services in criminal justice settings,

• Advance smart decarceration principles in social work education and practice.

​Click here to download the tool.

SOCIAL WORK, CRIMINAL JUSTICE, AND THE DEATH PENALTY

Author Reference: Lauren Ricciardelli

The elective course, Social Work, Criminal Justice, and the Death Penalty, aims to prepare graduate social work students to take an active role in the contemporary death penalty discourse in the United States by examining key insights from professionals who are engaged as legal, forensic, academic, and social work experts.

Click here to download the syllabus.

SOCIAL WORK IN CRIMINAL JUSTICE SETTINGS

Author Reference: Stephen Tripodi

This is a cross-listed course to be taken as an elective for BSW students, MSW students, and students from other disciplines interested in social work services for populations in the criminal justice system.

Click here to download the syllabus.

THE IMPACT OF VARIOUS SOCIAL POLICIES ON CRIMINALITY, CRIMINALIZATION, AND THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM

Author Reference: Sheryl Kubiak

This course engages students in critical readings and discussions focused on various social policies that may affect what is defined as ‘criminal’ and the criminalization of an individual.  Using a policy analytic framework, the course will encourage students to evaluate current policy and develop alternative polices. In developing alternatives, consideration of opposing and supporting forces – as well as social and financial costs – will be studied.

This course uses an ‘Inside-Out Prison Exchange’ model of teaching. This model provides an opportunity for a small group of students from Michigan State University and a group of individuals residing within Cooper Street Correctional Facility (JCS) to exchange ideas and perspectives about these topics and related social issues.  It is a chance for all participants to gain a deeper understanding of the intersection of social and health policies within the United States and how such policies intersect with the criminal/legal system.

Click here to download the syllabus.