MSW students’ attitudes towards incarcerated individuals

There is an unequivocally high incarceration rate amongst socially, economically, and politically vulnerable individuals including racial minorities, the impoverished, and the mentally ill (Creswell & Poth, 2017). This has resulted in jails and prisons becoming the leading mental health service provider in the United States. As a result, the incarcerated have required extensive services from social workers, which continues to impact the profession. The purpose of this study is to describe MSW students’ attitudes towards incarcerated individuals because attitudes towards prisoners are a major determinant of a prisoner’s success in becoming successfully reintegrated back into society (Park, 2009). The researcher recruited MSW students from six California State universities using an online survey to collect students’ demographic information, education, and experience with prisoners, and their attitudes towards prisoners (ATP). The total sample consisted of N = 202 MSW students and based on their responses, students’ race, religion, location, education, and experience with prisoners significantly varied with their attitudes towards prisoners. Education and experience with prisoners were the strongest predictors of favorable attitudes towards prisoners. With this information in mind, the present study declares a need for educating MSW students to work with prisoners to ensure that those who work with this population are fully accepting and advocate for social justice and reintegration.