Social workers evaluate prisoners and ex-convicts for mental or emotional issues and help develop treatment strategies. Many social workers enter the prison setting to deliver these therapies through individual or group patient care. Their job responsibilities may include providing counseling, implementing pharmacological remedies, or developing dependency treatments. Social worker jobs may also involve providing assistance in a variety of social arenas including finding employment, rehabilitating family relationships, or recommending healthy social activities.
Social workers often take on a supervisory or intermediate role when caring for prisoners. They may encourage the offender to seek psychiatric care or other treatments. They may also contact probation officers, law enforcement agencies or supervising physicians if the individual presents a risk of violence. In some cases, social workers may help create a social network that supports the ex-offender as they attempt to re-enter society.
Social Worker Job Description
Social worker jobs require the following competencies:
- Recognize the signs of drug or alcohol abuse
- Monitor the employment and activities of ex-convicts
- Conduct private or group therapy sessions in prison
- Assist clients find the appropriate treatment resources
- Facilitate interactions with friends and family
- Recommend the proper residential setting for a client
- Alert the proper authorities if an emergency occurs
How to Become a Social Worker
Social worker jobs require candidates who possess at least a bachelor’s degree, and many of these jobs require a master’s degree. The most common major is, of course, social work but it is possible to enter the field with a degree in these concentrations:
- Criminal justice
An advanced degree like a Master of Social Work is extremely beneficial in obtaining an entry level, experienced or management position.
Social workers must obtain a license to work anywhere in the U.S. These licenses are awarded by state certification boards, and the requirements may vary considerably. In most states, there is a work experience component which mandates a certain number of hours in a social work agency or setting within a year. There is also an academic component which may be fulfilled by enrolling in a state certification program. Accreditation is usually awarded upon successful completion of a comprehensive exam.
Social workers may find jobs within a variety of industries including social service agencies, healthcare and non-profit enterprises. Within the correctional system, social workers must submit a completed application along with college transcripts and resumes. A written employment exam and a physical fitness may need to be successfully passed. Prison social worker candidates will be interviewed and investigated to ensure there are no disqualifying factors like large debts or chemical dependency.
The training program once hired may be quite rigorous. Most corrections departments stress personal safety and require staff working with inmates to have extensive competencies in defensive tactics and violence response strategies. Social workers will also be introduced to agency-specific systems and procedures.
Social Worker Salary
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the national average social worker salary in 2010 was $42,480. There were 650,500 social workers working throughout the United States in 2010, and this number is expected to grow 25 percent by 2020.