Matthew Epperson is an Assistant Professor at the University of Chicago’s School of Social Service Administration. He teaches courses in direct social work practice, as well as a course that he designed entitled “Criminal Justice / Social Work Interface.” Professor Epperson has over 15 years of post-MSW clinical and administrative social work experience in mental health, substance abuse, and criminal justice settings.
Prior to joining SSA, professor Epperson was a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Center for Behavioral Health Services & Criminal Justice Research at Rutgers University's Institute for Health, Health Care Policy, and Aging Research. He received his Ph.D. with distinction and M.Phil. from the Columbia University School of Social Work, a M.S.W. from Grand Valley State University, and a B.S. in Sociology/Criminal Justice from Central Michigan University.
The U.S. criminal justice population was recently at an all-time high – over 7.3 million adults and 2 million juveniles. Persons tangled in the criminal justice system bear a disproportionate burden of social vulnerabilities and health risks including substance abuse, mental illnesses, and HIV. Contrary to popular perception, the largest and fastest growing segment of the adult U.S. criminal justice population is not currently incarcerated but in the community on probation, parole or some other form of community supervision, where they are often tasked with accessing a variety of services typically offered by social workers. Taking into account the numbers of individuals and families affected by both social welfare and criminal justice, the potential for interaction between these two systems has never been greater.
This interface between social work and criminal justice is at the heart of assistant professor Matthew Epperson’s scholarly interests. Specifically, professor Epperson focuses on intervention research targeting co-occurring problems of HIV, substance abuse, mental illness, and criminal justice involvement. He is currently involved in two studies funded by the National Institute of Justice which examine structural interventions targeting persons with mental illnesses in the criminal justice system. The first is a comparative evaluation of court-based programs (mental health court, specialized mental health probation unit, and traditional probation) in Cook County, Illinois, and the second is a study of the implementation of a specialized mental health caseload within the New Jersey Department of Probation.
Epperson is also Co-Investigator on an efficacy trial of a multimedia HIV prevention intervention targeting women with criminal justice involvement in New York City (Principal Investigator: Nabila El-Bassel).
Professor Epperson also researches criminal justice content in social work education. He has recently completed a study of how and to what extent criminal justice content is specifically addressed in all accredited MSW programs in the U.S.
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