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August 30, 2010

Gender, Jail, and Social Work

While chatting with a social worker recently, we made what has become a familiar observation:  That social workers and prosecutors really are addressing the same societal problems (substance abuse, for example), simply by different means. 

For the first time, though, a new and perhaps more important thought entered into that conversation.  Not only are criminal lawyers and social workers addressing the same problems in the same populations, but really within the same families.  She told me that in both urban and rural work that she had done, there was consistently a pattern where the men went to prison, and the social workers dealt with the women and children who are left in poverty and chaos. 

Moreover, it is a highly gendered dichotomy.  Those who go to prison and those who prosecute and defend them are overwhelmingly male, while those left behind and the social workers who help them are overwhelmingly female.  It is a sharp gender division on both sides.

Perhaps the oddest thing about all of this is that social workers and those in criminal law rarely communicate with each other, though they are addressing the same problems.  The men in criminal work stay in the courthouse, and the women in social work stay away from the courthouse and focus on the home. 

Perhaps it is time to address that gap?

-- Mark Osler

August 30, 2010 | Permalink


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Absolutely it's time. Many of the state public defenders I've spoken to in other jurisdictions have full-time social workers on staff and find it very useful. In jurisdictions with appointed representation, such as my own in Harris County, the interest just doesn't seem to be there among attorneys.

For the last several years the Center for Children, Law & Policy at the University of Houston Law Center (on which I was on staff during law school) had a session in our conferences for juvenile defense lawyers on using social workers. As part of that, we made our social workers and graduate student social work interns available to attorneys at no or little cost, but we rarely got any takers. Most seem to think it's a good idea, but translating that into reality seems to be another thing entirely.

Posted by: Luke Gilman | Aug 30, 2010 10:22:59 AM

Prof. Osler: Here is an idea to address this situation. Have the lawyer stop the relentless assault on the traditional family, to generate massive bastardy among minorities. As massive bastardy is promoted by the lawyer, the need for government make work for social workers and lawyers just explodes. You get them coming and going. You destroy the family, making for amoral, vicious predators. These predators generate a lot of government worker jobs. Your bemoaning the lack of communication between these two government dependent occupation is like the nictitation of a crocodile consuming a baby deer trying to get a drink. Both occupations get their jobs because the family has been destroyed, and your complaint about a communication gap is unseemly and hypocritical. The lawyer is totally responsible for the destruction of the American family. This family survived the slave trade, war, poverty, pioneer days, discrimination, lynchings. It could not survive the all assault of the lawyer.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Sep 3, 2010 12:41:55 AM

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