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What Is a Prison Social Worker and How to Become One

Prison Social Worker

What Does a Prison Social Worker Do?

As a prison social worker, you work in a jail or correctional facility. Your responsibilities revolve around assessing the mental health of prisoners, identifying substance abuse issues, and providing counseling and support services to promote rehabilitation. You lead group therapy sessions and work with the inmate population, helping them learn life skills so that they are better prepared to reenter the community upon their release. Additionally, you have related administrative duties like maintaining inmates’ medical records and assessment results, developing and documenting care plans, and communicating with prison officials, law enforcement, and the courts regarding prisoner status and progress.

How to Become a Prison Social Worker

Becoming a prison social worker typically requires a bachelor’s degree, and many employers prefer candidates who have earned a master’s degree in social work (MSW). Your qualifications should also include course work in criminal justice, forensic social work, and substance abuse. In this role, your work can be stressful and frustrating, especially when dealing with the systemic abuses of the carceral state, so you need to be good at maintaining boundaries and remaining calm in difficult situations. Additionally, you should have solid presentation skills, the ability to multi-task and manage evolving priorities, and the ability to communicate effectively with prisoners from varied backgrounds.