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Social work in juvenile and criminal justice settings, third edition.

Social Work in Juvenile and Criminal Justice Settings, Third Edition, edited by Albert Roberts and David Springer, Springfield, Ill., Charles Thomas Publishing, 2007, 438 pp.

Social Work in Juvenile and Criminal Justice Settings provides a great deal of insight and guidance to those who are considering a career in the social services field. Readers will find the topics of crime victims, juvenile and adult offenders, and community-based and institutional treatment to be of particular interest. A primary objective of this book is to provide a review of the development of federal, state and local policies and practices as crucial mechanisms in meeting the growing needs of a diverse offender population. While the presentation of policy and practice occupies a significant portion of this book, of equal consideration are the needs of crime victims and their families. Furthermore, the topic of offender mental health is central. Readers may Find it surprising that as many as 70 percent of all offenders are believed to have mental health disorders. By addressing the unique needs of both the offender and victim, the harmful effects of crime can be minimized. Generally, this book's authors are in agreement that better intervention strategies are essential if we are to lower recidivism rates.

The book is divided into thematic sections. Each section houses the works of many noted criminal justice and social work scholars and penologists, including Joan Petersilia, Karen Knox and Jeffrey Jenson. The first section is comprised of seven chapters, which provide a review of current trends in social work. Within these chapters, the conceptual framework for the remainder of the book is developed. Among the issues presented are the circumstances in which correctional policies have developed and operate, the nature and state of social work within the justice system (in rural and urban settings), and ethical practices. It becomes clear when reading this book that the contemporary social worker must be flexible in how he or she approaches offender treatment and counseling--there is no single approach that can be followed when treating offenders. Since each offender's background differs, so too do the challenges they present to treatment personnel. Not only do many offenders suffer from mental health issues, but they also deal with illiteracy and a host of emotional problems. Some have also been severely abused, making intervention especially challenging.

In Section 2, the focus is on various crisis-intervention strategies within the context of police work. Of particular interest are the chapters on victims of violent crime, the history and role of social work in law enforcement, and services to crime victims and witnesses. While most students are aware that social work occurs in corrections, fewer are aware that it also occurs within a law enforcement context. Students of psychology, sociology, social work and criminal justice that are interested in police work will find this section invaluable. The chapters comprising Section 3 specifically examine popular treatment procedures used with juvenile delinquents, developments in juvenile justice policies, modes of correctional intervention and supervision, and the role of the social worker in the juvenile justice setting. The judicial objectives of treatment, punishment and correction are presented as they pertain to the juvenile offender. To meet the rapidly changing nature of delinquency and the structure of the family unit, many juvenile courts are being transformed into "family courts." This change reflects a growing interest in addressing criminogenic factors that may be present in a delinquent's own family and counterproductive to reform efforts. Thus, the treatment and correction of the delinquent now takes into account family dynamics and possible dysfunction. The topics of adoption, child abuse, neglect and domestic violence are also presented. Similarly, the five chapters of Section 4 address issues related to victim assistance, domestic abuse intervention and trauma care. It is important to recognize that this book, unlike many others, keeps the crime victim and the appalling circumstances often associated with the juvenile offender at the forefront of its presentation.

Of particular interest to those contemplating working or currently working within probation, parole or prisons are the Final chapters of this text. Here the authors provide a realistic glimpse into the types of cases that social workers encounter within these settings. It appears that Roberts and Springer saved the presentation of social work within institutional corrections as one of the final areas addressed due to the difficulty that treatment specialists often encounter in high-security settings. It is within the prison that social workers find a clientele that display an especially large array of emotional, mental and developmental problems. As if this were not challenging enough, scheduling group and individual counseling sessions becomes difficult when dealing with the daily routines of the contemporary prison (i.e., scheduled and random counts).

Of the numerous books that I have read on social work and criminal justice, this is by far one of the best. This book presents topics that other works occasionally disregard including social worker training, services to female offenders, community reentry and the function of social workers within high-security settings. The manner in which it is organized and written is easy to read and understand. It is comprehensive and provides the experiences and observations of those knowledgeable about the topics presented. If social work within the context of the criminal justice system is of interest, then this is certainly the book for you. I give it my highest recommendation and assure you that a few hours spent perusing its pages will be time well-invested.

Reviewed by Lindsey Shaw, student in the Department of Political Science and Criminal Justice, University of South Alabama.
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Author:Shaw, Lindsey
Publication:Corrections Compendium
Article Type:Book review
Date:Sep 1, 2007
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