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College of Social Work

Criminal Justice

Our researchers explore engagement in criminal or delinquent behavior as well as impact of the criminal justice system on system-involved persons, victims and families.

Faculty explore a range of criminal justice research topics with statewide and national implications, including the following:

How Incarceration Affects Families

Faculty are studying the social and behavioral impact of incarceration on prisoners and their families, including health and mental health, involvement of family members in the criminal justice system, economic mobility and academic performance.

Behavioral Health and Incarceration

Noting the link between trauma, adversity, mental health and the justice system, faculty are developing a novel curriculum to help corrections officers identify incarcerated persons who may struggle with mental health challenges. The free online training suite can be used to educate officers about how to respond and coordinate with their facility’s clinical staff to ensure the most effective institutional responses to mental health issues.

Based on earlier faculty research demonstrating that girls in the juvenile justice system had high levels of trauma and victimization, the state Department of Juvenile Justice hired a trauma specialist and developed trauma-informed training for professionals across South Carolina.

Faculty are also probing the relationship between incarceration and opioid abuse, examining ways that opioids may be associated with initiation and/or escalation of criminal activity. In comparison to other populations, former prisoners have a high rate of opioid overdose deaths. Faculty have also examined substance abuse in repeat offenders.

In addition, faculty are exploring the role of school resource officers to help at-risk youth. Further, faculty are examining sex trafficking as well as internet sexual solicitation of children.


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