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Social Work Within a Maximum Security Setting (From Social Work in Juvenile and Criminal Justice Settings, Third Edition, P 366-375, 2007, Albert R. Roberts and David W. Springer, eds. -- See NCJ-217866)

NCJ Number
David Showalter; Marian Hunsinger
Date Published
10 pages
This chapter on the role and function of social workers in a maximum-security setting addresses the social worker as therapist, the strengthening of support systems, advocacy and the mobilization of resources, and the security role and confidentiality.
The role of therapist in a maximum-security setting is one of the most important but also one of the most difficult. If the inmate believes the social worker will break the confidentiality bond or if the inmate perceives that the social worker is acting in a strong security role, trust is absent. The inmate has a right to expect that what is shared with a social worker is confidential; however, the social worker should make clear that he/she must report any information that pertains to the safety of inmates and staff. Regarding security, social workers as therapists can help inmates improve communication skills and develop positive behaviors that serve the interests of prison security. One of the key objectives of social work is client self-determination. This means the inmate must learn to make choices about his/her life in prison. The social worker must be creative in helping the inmate client find ways to follow a course of realistic and beneficial self-determination within the parameters of prison rules. In addition to acting as a therapist for inmates, the social worker in a maximum-security setting can help inmates benefit from the support system of family and friends. This involves assisting the inmate in strengthening an existing support system and in developing support in other areas he/she has never used. The social worker as advocate involves actions designed to mobilize and secure the resources important for the inmate's well-being and positive development while in prison. 9 references