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Interested in Social Justice? Consider Taking: "Social Work with Formerly Incarcerated Individuals"

“Social Work with Formerly Incarcerated Individuals: Social Work’s Grand Challenge of Smart Decarceration” is a 3-credit elective course is open to both Foundation and Advanced students and offered fall '21 from 9:00-12:00 Fridays in a synchronous online format.


“Smart decarceration” includes comprehensive and innovative strategies that promote alternatives to our current systems of crime and punishment in order to work toward a more inclusive and moral society. Smart decarceration is guided by the social work profession’s core value of social justice.


The U.S. incarcerates more people per capita than any other country; the current census of those in U.S. jails and prisons is 2.3 million. There are large disparities by race; African-Americans are about 13% of the population but represent 38% of the Federal prison population.


Maryland’s incarceration rate is less than the national rate: 585 per 100,000 v. 698 per 100,000. However, when comparing Maryland’s rate to that of countries (UK=139/100,000; Canada=114/100,000), it is clear that Maryland and the country as a whole are conducting mass incarceration. Concerns about mass incarceration led smart decarceration to be named as one of the 12 Grand Challenges of Social Work.


Individuals who were formerly incarcerated face many barriers to reintegration. These include challenges in finding employment and housing; regaining custody/contact with their children; and for many challenges in obtaining mental health and substance use disorder services.


This course’s focus on smart decarceration as an effective, sustainable, and socially just concept will be valuable for students interested in a variety of social work practice settings and at both the clinical and macro practice levels.

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