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The United States has one of the highest incarceration rates in the world. Additionally, over 7 million people are currently under some sort of community correctional supervision. Social workers are likely to come into contact with these individuals (and/or their families) regardless of specialization or setting. They should be equipped to collaborate with the criminal justice system and to utilize interpersonal, policy and practice skills to work toward ensuring all individuals have the opportunity to be safe, healthy, contributing members of their communities. The certificate program in Forensic Social , beginning on the Knoxville Campus in the Fall of 2019, is a partnership between the College of Social Work and the College of Law. It provides an opportunity for students to gain knowledge about a system impacting millions of people and will broadly expose students to the criminal justice system through a focused look at forensic social work a combination of courses taken at our own college and the College of Law.

Social workers have increasing opportunities to practice in criminal justice settings. This course of study leading to the Certificate in Forensic Social Work seeks to assist students in developing knowledge and skills for practice in diverse arenas. Forensic social work practice requires the knowledge, skill and ethical capacity to balance the mutual and conflicting interests of client and community.

Forensic social work is based on specialized knowledge drawn from established principles and their application, familiarity with the law, evaluation, and objective criteria associated with treatment outcomes. The training of social work practitioners has not traditionally included familiarity with the adversary process nor the issues that civil and criminal justice systems confront. Without such training, social workers called onto provide forensic services may find themselves at a disadvantage. Through our new certificate program, we hope to offer training and experience that will properly engage the student to be prepared for this challenging yet fulfilling type of work.

Functions of the forensic social work practitioner may include…

Providing consultation, education, or training to:

  • Criminal justice, juvenile justice, and correctional systems
  • Law makers
  • Law enforcement personnel
  • Attorneys, law students, and paralegals
  • Members of the public


Diagnosis, treatment, and recommendations:

  • Diagnosing, assessing, and treating criminal and juvenile justice populations
  • Diagnosing, treating, or making recommendations about mental status, childrens’ interests, incapacities, or inability to testify
  • Serving as an expert witness
  • Screening, evaluating, or treating law enforcement and other criminal justice personnel


Other functions:

  • Policy and program development
  • Mediation, advocacy, and arbitration
  • Teaching, training, and supervising
  • Behavioral Science Research and Analysis




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