MSW Programs’ Admissions Policies Regarding Applicants with Histories of Criminal Justice Involvement

Laura Curran, Raymond Sanchez Mayers, Laura DiMarcantonio, Fontaine H. Fulghum

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


This article examines U.S.-based MSW programs’ admissions practices and policies toward applicants with criminal convictions. Despite national attention to mass incarceration and its impact on college admissions, there is a dearth of empirical investigation in this area. Through a national survey of MSW programs’ admissions personnel (n = 146), this study seeks to fill this research gap. We ask: How do MSW programs evaluate applicants with criminal justice histories; what factors account for programs’ interest/concern with these histories; and what factors influence programs’ admission decision-making in relation to these applicants? Findings indicate that a majority of MSW programs screen applicants in relation to their criminal justice backgrounds and do so primarily to uphold professional gatekeeping responsibilities and address concerns related to securing field placements. Social justice issues did not emerge as a significant factor in program practices and policies. The majority of respondents did not provide training or guidelines to the reviewers regarding evaluation of applicants with criminal convictions nor did programs’ criteria for admission entirely correlate with the criminal justice literature on predictors of recidivism. Recommendations include greater transparency in processes and greater training and consistency for reviewers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)721-733
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Social Work Education
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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