Journal of Human Rights and Social Work

, Volume 3, Issue 4, pp 229–239 | Cite as

Social Work and Capital Punishment: a Call to Action

  • L. Lauren BrownEmail author
  • Sarah Graham McGee


Social work governing bodies have championed the abolition of capital punishment, but no recommendations have been made as to how social workers may actualize this stance. Capital punishment is a threat to the profession’s mission, as it is capriciously administered, economically irresponsible, violates the Eighth Amendment and human rights, perpetuates cycles of violence, and there is insufficient evidence it deters violent crimes. These areas of concern are reviewed, and recommendations are provided for concrete ways social workers can synthesize knowledge and professional values into action towards death penalty abolition. The Death Penalty Abolition Action Continuum for Social Workers illustrates these recommendations and includes Support, Ambivalence, Opposition Without Action, Self-Education, Influencing Others, Advocacy, and Abolition Leadership. This is a call to action, invoking social workers to participate more directly in the abolition of capital punishment as part of social work’s mission to create a more equitable, humane, and just society.


Social work education Death penalty Abolition Capital punishment Forensic social work 



Special thanks to Margaret Vandiver for her wisdom, expertise, and feedback; special thanks to Dixie Highsmith for her time spent editing.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Tennesseans for Alternatives to the Death PenaltyNashvilleUSA

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