Social Work and Law Enforcement
Social Work in the Law Enforcement Sector
Social workers play an integral role in police departments, in jails and in the community at large. While getting your social worker degree, you are likely considering what area you will choose to work in after graduation. Choosing to specialize in law enforcement can offer a challenging and rewarding career working with often overlooked and underserved populations.
Police social workers work with individual crime victims and witnesses of crimes, as well as people who have been involved in a large-scale crisis situation. Whether it is a case of sexual assault or a mass shooting, victims and witnesses experience psychological trauma that can be debilitating if it goes unchecked. This is where a social worker steps in to provide immediate counseling and arrange for additional resources as needed.
The needs of each individual will be different, depending on the incident and the level of personal impact incurred. Some victims may require alternative housing or police patrols to feel safe after an assault. Others may need ongoing mental health care to lessen post-traumatic stress and learn how to get back to normal living.
Social work within the corrections system is focused on the rehabilitation of prisoners in order to avoid recidivism. This can include drug and alcohol treatment, mental health counseling, behavior modification, and skills development for positive living on the outside. Social workers may also help inmates get into a job training or prison work program, based on their progress during rehabilitation.
Prison social workers often engage with an inmate’s family and legal team to better understand any financial, medical, legal, and substance abuse problems that are at play. There is also the opportunity to help prisoners make a successful transition back into the community by arranging for the necessary social services such as housing, family reunification, and continuing mental health treatment.
Some social workers are able to make a successful career move into the role of parole officer. Parole officers work with newly released prisoners to help them find and keep a job, continue treatment, and otherwise make positive changes that will keep them out of jail.
Parole officers are required to visit their parolees’ homes and workplaces to check on their progress. They may also stop by the homes of relatives or places where the parolee is known to frequent. This can be a dangerous venture with forays into rough neighborhoods. That’s why most parole officers receive firearms training and carry a weapon for their own personal safety.
If you’re interested in working alongside law enforcement professionals as a social worker, learn more about your educational opportunities from UNE’s Online Masters in Social Work program.