Transforming Justice Policies and Practices is a Program of Study. You must be accepted first to SSA's Social Work and Social Welfare (SW) program and then by the Program of Study. SSA students apply to Programs of Study during their first year.
This Program of Study immerses clinical practice and social administration students in classes and field placements that offer a rich exploration and examination of the policies, practices, histories and philosophies of the United States criminal justice system, with an emphasis on developing more just approaches. It offers a historical and current overview of the overlaps of the fields of social work and criminal justice, preparing students to recognize and address inequities at these intersections. Students will develop skills to intervene on multiple levels, explore varied and alternative systems of justice, and build better policies, programs, services, and practices for people and communities affected by the criminal justice system. Students in this program of study will also become knowledgeable about the following: 1) theories of crime and justice, as well as critiques and emerging theoretical directions; 2) the experiences, outcomes, and civic life of people most impacted by the criminal justice system; 3) potential and evidence-supported levers to achieve decarceration; and 4) innovative policy and practice approaches to improve the health and wellbeing of individuals, families, groups, and communities impacted by incarceration. Courses in this program draw on insights from the research and practices of scholars, activists, and practitioners across diverse fields. This is not a traditional "forensic social work" Program of Study. Rather, this program focuses on promoting socially just change within and outside the criminal justice system.
A total of three courses will be required. Students will also have quarterly meetings with core faculty and a job/career planning meeting organized by the program coordinator. Students will be able to augment their classroom experiences by attending additonal events featuring outside speakers and engage with UChicago/SSA student organizations (Students for Criminal Justice Reform; Justice Works).
Clinical Practice students will take a placement where the student role includes providing clinical services to populations with criminal system involvement or victims of crime. These include placements at jails, prisons, detention centers, forensic psychiatric centers, treatment programs, and probation offices, programs that offer restorative justice services, or that serve victims of violence.
Social Administration students will take a placement where the role includes advocating for, developing policy related to, or managing programs for persons affected by criminal justice system involvement.
Students completing the program engage in direct practice and social administration careers at the intersections of criminal justice and social work. Graduates of this program will be well-prepared to work in change-oriented roles within and outside the criminal justice system, including: community-based services with criminal justice-affected populations; legal advocacy and mitigation; advancing progressive decarceration policies; and research on justice policies and practices.
Matt Epperson, PhD
NOTE: While some of the required courses may be offered in the evening, no Program of Study can be completed entirely through evening courses and fieldwork.