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A chainlink fence with barbed wire wrapped around the top.

By Carl Vogel

The U.S. prison population has grown by 500 percent in 30 years. Many have called for an end to this “mass incarceration” and its social and fiscal costs. Today, changes in drug sentencing laws, state budget crises and other factors are contributing to re-introduction of rehabilitation and options instead of prison for those in the criminal justice system. SSA’s Matthew Epperson and Robert Fairbanks comment on these trends and discuss their research on, respectively, probation for defendants with mental illness and the Sheridan Correctional Center, the nation’s largest substance abuse treatment prison.

Several people stand in front of a large painted mural.

By Charles Whitaker

Few studies on immigration have taken into account the consequences on young people, including consequences related to mental and physical health. SSA’s Roberto Gonzales is one of a handful of scholars who are examining the psycho-social adjustment many young, undocumented residents face as they move into young adulthood and resign themselves to a narrowly circumscribed range of post-school opportunities. Faculty members Yoonsun Choi and Miwa Yasui note that immigrant experience impacts psychological states and that the profound differences in immigrant experience based on ethnicity, legal status, age and other factors must also be taken into account when studying these factors.

A person carries a large basket on her shoulder while facing away from the camera.

By Ed Finkel

SSA students in the University of Chicago Human Right’s Internship program join the long tradition of linking social work with social justice issues. In South Africa, Nicaragua, Nairobi, Taiwan and even Chicago’s Little Village neighborhood, five master’s students worked on projects as diverse as policy advocacy around HIV/AIDS services, creating a programs that serves young mothers who have been victims of sexual assault, and teaching high school math. The common framework was seeing the connection between helping individuals and advocacy for large-scale change.


A male-presenting person smiles towards the camera in a library.

Advancing the knowledge base for social work not only involves developing a deep understanding of social problems to inform social policites and practices. It also often times involves direct, tangible, "dirt under the fingernails" engagement with and service to those who are most vulnerable—carrying out a science of learning by doing.

Two men talking to each-other and smiling.

The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS ) has new leadership in Richard H. Calica, A.M. ’73, who was named director in December. Calica and Mark Courtney, a professor at SSA , recently sat down to discuss Calica’s plans for DCFS and thoughts on its role, statewide standards and the importance of evidence-based practice.

Several people posing for the camera and smiling.

A new study has found that adolescents from families with two biological parents enjoy significantly better physical health than adolescents from single-parent families, families with step-parents and families with cohabitating parents.

A child looks towards the camera.

Child support used to be simpler. When current guidelines emerged in the 1980s they were envisioned for a couple divided by divorce. Most of the time the father paid the mother to support their children.

A female-presenting person crying and being held by someone.

Concern about the abuse of children in state care has been growing. One study in Great Britain found that children in foster care are seven to eight times more likely than other children to be reported or assessed as maltreated, and children in residential care six times more likely. 

A male-presenting person pushes someone into a locker.

The issue of children being bullied is a regular topic in the news these days, in part because it’s on the rise. The percentage of students aged 12 to 18 who reported being bullied at school increased 24.5 percent between 2003 and 2007, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, and in 2009, one in five high school students reported being bullied in the previous 10 months.

A view of a modern-style building from the outside.

Motivational Interviewing has gone far beyond its roots. Created in the early 1980s as a substance abuse treatment in the U.S., the therapy is being used today in the corrections system in Singapore, for HIV risk prevention in Northern Europe and Tanzania, for water purification in Zambia and Malawi, and more.

A male-presenting person speaking into a microphone and looking towards the camera.

Poverty is more than just another word for “low-income.” The complex realities of living in poverty and the many issues that impact whether and how someone can rise out of poverty are much too complicated to be fit into a single frame. 

School News

SSA’s Edith Abbott Award recognizes SSA alumni for distinguished service to society and for outstanding professional contributions at the local, national, or international levels. Charles Curie and Jona Rosenfeld, the two winners of the 2011 award, represent the best of the School’s graduates and the field of social work.

In July, for the first time in more than 20 years, the International AIDS Conference will return to the U.S. As more than 25,000 people from 200 countries convene in Washington D.C. to discuss the global pandemic, there are many reasons for Americans to be optimistic.