Episode 212 - Dr. Matthew Epperson and Dr. Carrie Pettus-Davis: Smart Decarceration

Monday, March 27, 2017, 7:34:11 AM

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In this episode, our guests Dr. Matthew Epperson and Dr. Carrie Pettus-Davis discuss their research and efforts to provide an alternative to the mass incarceration movement in the United States. Both are scholars and leaders of the Smart Decarceration Initiative, and they describe their mission and goals. They argue that our current system of mass incarceration should be replaced with effective and sustainable alternatives that protect society as well as assist people who have committed crimes.

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Average Rating: 4 stars (6 listener reviews )

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Average Rating: 4stars  mass incarceration is a social work issue!, Monday, February 15, 2021

By Anonymous :

This podcast episode was very interesting. Whether you know a little or a lot about mass incarceration the concept of “smart decarceration” central to this discussion offers a fresh approach to dealing with this problem. Dr. Epperson & Dr. Pettus-Davis lay out the goals and logic behind their initiative that are shaped by an understanding of mass incarceration’s roots in social inequity and the marginalization of certain communities.
Smart decarceration understands that the racial, economic and mental health disparities of those incarcerated are a reflection of broader social issues that have to be addressed when taking on the issue of mass incarceration.
Another really interesting part of this podcast was the thorough understanding and outlining of how this is a social work issue. Firstly, they describe how mass incarceration really touches almost every community that social workers aim to help. The podcast discussion does a really good job at outlining how intersectional incarceration is. From this point, the initiative discussed is really exciting because it puts this understanding of intersectionality and the social work perspective into practice. It is specially discussed how social work training lends itself to addressing mass incarceration. Social workers ability to toggle between the micro and macro perspective and to understand that issues function on individual and structural levels helps us to see the problem of mass incarceration for what it is and makes us highly equipped to address it.
With that said, the last really great point is that the social work perspective alone is not enough. The emphasis on the need for former inmates to be at the table of people addressing mass incarceration is so important. It is exciting and motivating to hear two major players in the fight discuss this with clarity and urgency.

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Average Rating: 4stars  smart decarcaration, Monday, October 12, 2020

By Linda (Lin) :

Thank you for taking the initiative to make different kinds of innovation and alternatives that could replace incarcration for so many young black Americans.

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Average Rating: 3stars  important goals, Saturday, February 09, 2019

By Desiree Polanish :

The concept of Smart Decarceration presented in this podcast is a relevant and important one. Dr. Epperson and Dr. Carrie Pettus-Davis have identified problems with mass incarceration and goals benefiting both people who engage in criminal behavior and society as a whole. As this interview took place in 2016, it was interesting to hear them make mention of the upcoming election and the potential influence it may have on the state of mass incarceration.
Critically, I would like to have heard some more specific detail around implementation. While certain parts of the interview gave mention to specific ideas, most of the narrative was more of an overview of broader areas that would need to be addressed in order to achieve decarceration. The overview, however, did identify the pathways to collaboration that are necessary in order to achieve the goals of the initiative. Dr. Epperson and Dr. Pettus-Davis discuss their work with multiple systems and perhaps most importantly, they emphasize the importance of including those who have actually experienced incarceration in the discussion and overall movement.

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Average Rating: 5stars  smart decarceration reflection, Monday, October 08, 2018

By Estella :

I found this podcast to be very captivating and relevant to the many social concerns we address on the topic of mass incarceration. Smart decarceration is a forward thinking initiative that strategically reduces the number of people who are imprisoned and comprehensively addresses social and public safety concerns. When discussing mass incarceration, we often focus on the topic of recidivism. Repeated offenses often occur because society has failed to address the social determinants which introduced the person into the criminal justice system in the first place. Criminalizing marginalized populations for non-violent offenses does not address the root problem or reason for the offense. For example, possession of cannabis has historically led to the mass imprisonment of marginalized populations and more specifically, people of color. Depending on the amount a person has, they could be charged with intent to sale, which holds steeper consequences and a longer prison term. This fails to address why this person had possession and/or why they are selling. We further the problem by imprisoning the individual, which leads to a criminal record. This criminal record then makes it hard for the person to gain employment and possibly live in public and/or subsidized housing. Now they are faced with the decision to survive or struggle. Smart decarceration aims to reduce the use of incarceration in such offenses by developing sustainable and just alternatives.
I was intrigued by the topic and did a little research. I found a policy recommendation by Dr. Epperson & Dr. Pettus-Davis. There are four key recommendations for smart decarceration is a great tool for social workers to begin to organize and build partnerships for adopting these policy recommendations.
Great podcast!

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Average Rating: 4stars  decarceration is the way to go. , Saturday, February 10, 2018

By Susan Bhuiyan :

I found this podcast to be extremely informative and relevant. Mass incarceration is a problem that faces many people in society and Dr.Epperson and Dr. Pettus-Davis discuss not only reducing the amount that people are in prison and changing legislation to reduce the amount of time that people are incarcerated for but how as a society we can help people once they are no longer in prison. It is not only about getting people out of prison but what kind of supports and service can we offer to help them get back on their feet. Jobs, housing and integration back into society can be difficult for people who have been incarcerated and this podcast really sheds light on what we can do to change the conversation. How we help people outside of prison is just as important as how we help them to get out of prison and to ensure that they they have a better chance of being successful and not going to prison again. Another aspect of this podcast that I found to be very important was their collaborative work with people who were prisoners previously.
Overall, I found this to be a very informative and important podcast. I would have like to have heard different methods in which the general public can help people who are in the decarceration process.

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Average Rating: 4stars  smart decarceration is the way to go, Thursday, February 01, 2018

By Shana :

Dr. Matthew Epperson and Dr. Carrie Pettus-Davis present an important alternative to the mass incarceration phenomenon in the United States in this episode of inSocialWork. The idea of "smart decarceration" is extremely relevant to our society today, and particularly important to social workers who are interested in working with/in the criminal justice system. Epperson and Pettus-Davis stress the importance of this subject matter to those in the social work field because those who are impacted by mass incarceration and the current criminal justice system are often those who are most vulnerable and marginalized. The smart decarceration approach should be credited for its attempt to bring social workers and those who are incarcerated or involved with the criminal justice system together to develop sustainable and just alternatives to mass incarceration.

One thing I would have liked to see included in this discussion is the role of trauma and how to couple smart decarceration with trauma-informed care in order to provide the best outcomes for those involved in the criminal justice system with a history of trauma. Nonetheless, smart decarceration seems like a viable alternative to the mass incarceration movement in the U.S. and an important approach to consider for social workers interested in the criminal justice system.

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