Anna Celeste Burke
Historically, U.S. policy has been characterized by long-standing ambivalence evident in the changing emphasis placed on prohibition as the aim of drug policy, and in debate about the relative merits of various approaches to drug control. Often characterized as supply reduction versus demand reduction efforts, significant changes have occurred over time in these efforts, and in the emphasis placed on them. In the last quarter of the twentieth century, U.S. drug policy adopted a more prohibitionist stance, with increased reliance on a variety of law enforcement, and even military actions, to control the supply and use of drugs, even in the face of evidence for the effectiveness of prevention and treatment, and high costs associated with the burgeoning incarceration rates.
Sondra J. Fogel, M. Dwayne Smith, and Beth Bjerregaard
Capital punishment, the administration of death as a legal sanction, is a criminal-justice response to a restricted class of criminal activities that involve the killing of another human being. As a legal process, capital punishment has been modified by several landmark U.S. Supreme Court decisions. Yet, it remains a controversial penalty with factors of race, gender, socio-economic status, mental health status of the defendant, and other extra-legal factors often attributed to the sentencing decision. Social workers are increasingly used as mitigation experts or in similar types of roles for the defense team. As a profession, social work opposes the use of capital punishment. The purpose of this entry is to provide an overview of the death penalty as it is currently practiced in the United States and to review current issues and controversies surrounding its administration.
The United Nations has defined six grave violations that occur in war that impact children: killing or maiming of children, recruitment or use of children as soldiers, sexual violence against children, attacks against schools or hospitals, denial of humanitarian access for children, and abduction of children. These violations have a myriad of negative impacts on children, including biological, psychological, and social effects. Culturally appropriate support and care provided at the micro, mezzo, and macro levels can help alleviate these impacts and help children recover from these experiences.
Rudolph Alexander Jr.
The criminal justice system traces its roots to ancient times. When the 13 original colonies were formed, they brought many of the laws and legal processes from England. Traditionally, the criminal justice system is viewed as including law enforcement, judiciary, and corrections. However, state legislatures and Congress must be viewed as essential components of the criminal justice system because they pass laws that influence the other three components. A number of controversial practices and policies exist within the criminal justice system. Social work, which has had a long involvement in the criminal justice system, including spearheading the creation of the juvenile justice system in the United States, is involved in all phases of the criminal justice system.
Elder abuse is now recognized internationally as a social problem among the aging population. Intentional abuse, neglect, and exploitation among caregivers to frail and isolated elderly create serious risks across diverse formal and informal care settings. This field has expanded continuously since the early 1970s. Accurate prevalence and incidence rates have not been determined. There is a national system of elder victim protection operating within each state. The social work profession is legally mandated to report situations where an elderly person is suspected to be at risk of abuse. Social workers are involved in all aspects of elder abuse prevention and intervention services.
Nancy A. Humphreys and Shannon Lane
Hate crimes and their traumatic repercussions are an important area for social worker intervention. This entry will examine how hate crimes are defined and handled, and the difficulties inherent in categorizing and responding to them. Collection of hate crime statistics and hate crime–related legislation are reviewed. The entry will also examine how social workers can help victims and perpetrators and influence how society conceptualizes and prevents hate crimes and their consequences.
Bonnie E. Carlson
Intimate partner violence—physical, emotional, or sexual abuse experienced in both heterosexual and same-sex relationships—has emerged as a significant and complex social problem warranting the attention of social workers. Numerous risk factors have been identified in individual perpetrators and victims, as well as at the level of the relationship, community, and society. Partner violence has diverse consequences for female victims, as well as for perpetrators and children who are exposed to it. Although many female victims do seek help and end abusive relationships, seeking help from professionals such as social workers is often a last resort.
Jill Theresa Messing
Intimate partner violence—the continual and systematic exercise of power and control within an intimate relationship that often also includes physical and sexual violence—has emerged as a significant and complex social problem warranting the attention of social workers. Risk and protective factors have been identified at the individual, family, community, and societal levels. Some of these risk factors for repeat and lethal violence have been organized into risk assessment instruments that can be used by social workers to educate and empower survivors. Intimate partner violence has multiple negative health and mental health consequences for female victims and their children. Social workers in all areas of practice should be prepared to intervene with victims of intimate partner violence in a culturally competent manner using a strengths-based framework.
Robert G. Madden
The law is a powerful force in all aspects of contemporary American society. The legal system furnishes the context and procedures for the creation and enforcement of laws to resolve disputes, protect rights, and generally to maintain order. Social workers are expected to understand the basic workings of the legal system. Knowledge of the legal system provides the foundation to support social workers to undertake social justice initiatives, to give voice to vulnerable client populations, and to work for legal rules that support good social work practice.
Matthew Epperson, Julian Thompson, and Kelli E. Canada
This article discusses the emergence, structure, and purpose of the mental health court. It details the therapeutic aspects of the mental health court and its function as a specialized-treatment court serving persons with serious mental illnesses in the criminal justice system. Guiding themes, such as the criminalization of mental illness, therapeutic jurisprudence, and drug-treatment courts are described. It also identifies key legislation that contributed to the funding and proliferation of mental health courts. The effectiveness of mental health court, along with current criticisms regarding its impact on participants’ mental health and recidivism outcomes, are also covered. Last, social work values and the various roles of social workers in the mental health court are highlighted to demonstrate the relevance of mental health court to contemporary social work practice and intervention.