Although various types of correctional services are already available to prison inmates, professional social workers can play a vital role in a prison setting. Social workers in correctional facilities provide two types of services: supportive services within the institution and connections to resources in the community. Within a correctional facility, social work services might be utilized in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, education, and vocational rehabilitation. This calls for a deeper understanding of the prison environment and offender better by the social worker. Initiatives such as diversion, community services, parole, probation, correctional supervision and the conversion of imprisonment sentences to those of a community-based treatment should be explored to minimize re-offending or recidivism. Specifically, a professional social worker can play the following roles in a prison setting:
1-Case work with individuals
Social work practitioners should acknowledge and respond to the real environmental and emotional crises that can be created by incarceration. Each offender has the capacity to grow and develop to be a constructive member of the family, community and society. Prisoners are responsible for their behavioral change.
A central component of valuing the individual is recognizing the individual in relation to their family and community. Social Workers challenge attitudes and behaviors, which result in crime and cause distress or harm to victims and others. Casework treatment in institutional settings relies heavily upon efforts toward role-adaptation in the client and role adjustment in the primary groups, of which both the client and the persons who referred him are his members.
In the correctional field, the probation officer interprets the delinquent’s behavior to the judge and to the police officers. The caseworker studies and assesses the combination of internal and external forces that directed the prisoner into a criminal mode of behavior. The caseworker has ready access to those who define the social role of inmates and who observe the client’s daily role performance. In such institutional settings, the caseworker is part of the world to which he is trying to help the client adapt more satisfactorily.
Probation is derived from the Latin word which means “to test or to prove”. It is developed as a custodial alternative which is used where guilt is established but it is considered that imposing of a prison sentence would do no good. The Court may order the release on probation of good conduct if it is convinced that no previous conviction is proved against him, and with regards to age, sex, and antecedents of the offender. The offender is required to enter into a bond with or without sureties to appear and receive sentence when called up and in the meantime to keep the peace and be of good behavior. Imprisonment decreases his capacity to readjust to the normal society after release and association with professional delinquents often have undesired effects.
During probation, the probationer lives in the community. He regulates his own life under conditions imposed by a court or other constituted authority and is subjected to supervision by a probation officer. Compensation, release on admonition probation, imposition of fines, community services are a few such techniques used. Probation in India mostly depends on the policy of the state. Aftercare program has been set up to improve the lives of those released on probation. Large numbers of social workers are also employed as probation or parole officers. Probation officers provide case management and supportive services to individuals who have been offered a suspended sentence or probation as an alternative to incarceration; parole officers provide case management and other social services to offenders who have been granted early release from prison. Social workers in these positions may provide crisis intervention services and referrals for education, vocational, counseling, and substance abuse services.
The term aftercare refers to the program and services organized for the rehabilitation of inmates from correctional institutions. It can be used to refer to the program and services organized to complete the process of rehabilitation of socially and physically handicapped individuals or groups which have been begun and carried up to a particular stage in an institution (Dhaor, 2008).
The social worker can play an important role in identifying post-release employment opportunities and network with other organizations in order to help the inmate reintegrate into society. A number of after-care programmes are being run by the government with the help of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) which are acting as a bridge between the prisoners and the community. These services are offered to the prisoners on their release. The Prison Departments are also providing tool kits of trades to released prisoners to achieve self-employment. Prison Welfare Officer also helps released prisoners in availing grant or loan under various development schemes. In certain states, halfway homes have also been set up especially for women prisoners who are facing problems of rehabilitation.
4-Group work among the substance abusers:
A large number of prison inmates end up in the prison as a result of drug trafficking. Many times they themselves are addicted to drugs and find it difficult to cope with the sudden abstinence within the prison walls. Social workers can play a major role in helping the drug addicts deal with the situation through group work. The social worker emphasizes on abstinence from the substance/ alcohol and tries to motivate the inmate regarding the benefits of de-addiction. The social worker can also monitor the treatment drugs prescribed by the medical doctor in the prison. The first phase of the group work usually has highly structured and well planned sessions with clear objectives. After a few sessions an interactive approach can be used. Most of the activities are focused on here and now activities, activity-based programme like those needing movement of the body are recommended. Various role plays like problem solving, feedback, self-disclosure, confrontation, creating social support network and providing information are important techniques.