Social workers are guided by the Canadian Association of Social Workers ' (CASW) Code of Ethics. In accordance with the Code of Ethics, Social Workers share a set of values that include respecting the inherent dignity and worth of all persons and valuing the pursuit of social justice (Canadian Association of Social Workers [CASW], 2005a). In practice, Social Workers strive for the best interests of clients, encourage self-determination, and advocate for social change (CASW, 2005b). However, social workers are sometimes confronted with situations and policies that challenge these values.
For social workers assisting individuals involved in the criminal justice system, existing policies, procedures, and correctional culture can challenge these values. According to the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) (2007), the paramount consideration in the corrections process is the protection of society. This macro-level criminal justice response addresses the needs of the larger community by ensuring safety from offenders. However, the CSC is responsible not only for the community, but also the needs of individuals in their care.
While protection of society from people who have been found guilty is important, this macro-level approach can have detrimental effects on individuals who are vulnerable, disadvantaged, or have mental health concerns. For those people who require extra support in a system designed for the needs of society, the resources do not always exist (John Howard Society of Ontario [JHS], 2015). It is in these instances when the protection of the individual may be more important than the protection of society. For professiona...
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...probation orders that can include conditions relating to mental health like participating in treatment, abstaining from illegal substances, or residing at an approved address (JHS, 2015). These conditions criminalize mental health because breaching any single one of them will result in a new criminal charge for 'failing to comply ' and will impact eligibility for release on bail again in the future (JHS, 2015). Most importantly, many people before the courts continue to agree to these conditions, despite the potential consequences because the only other alternative is to remain in custody (JHS, 2015). This results in a cycle of criminal involvement and illustrates that the criminal justice system does not recognize the unique needs of individuals with mental health concerns. Instead, the current system frequently embeds them into a cycle that they cannot escape.
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