The incarceration rates in the US are at crisis levels. Certain vulnerable populations have disproportionate risk of incarceration. It is estimated that 1 in 3 African American men born after 2000 will be incarcerated. An estimated 17% of prison inmates have a serious mental illness and receive woefully inadequate care in prison. Nearly 2/3 of prison releases will recidivate within three years.
There is evidence that interventions can reduce incarceration rates in vulnerable populations. Interventions such as CTI and prison reentry programs have shown efficacy. However much more work is needed to develop a comprehensive range of practice and policy interventions to reduce the unnecessary incarceration of vulnerable populations. Given the complex nexus of psychosocial factors leading to incarceration, social work is uniquely positioned to address this grand societal challenge.