Social work in prison is carried out by social workers and psychologists who are employees in the structure of the prison, but not prison officials. The purpose of the social work is to help the detainee maintain and create important and positive social contacts outside the prison, to increase the ability to cope and to influence him/her to act more legally obedient. Since illegal behaviour is usually caused by the person's personal and social problems, the social work with the detainee includes personal, economic and legal issues.
The prison's social work can be characterized through the reception, main and release phase. In the reception phase, the emphasis is on the safety of the family, the chance to retain the job position and the need to secure property. Also, the detainee's alcohol and drug problems, vocational skills and work experience and the desire to acquire education in prison will be determined. Based on this info, the social worker will present suggestions for the individual action plan. The psychologists will use discussions, tests and questionnaires to determine the detainee's physical and emotional state and make suggestions about planning the time of the sentence. The psychologists will also help cope with the changes.
In the main phase, the social worker gives the detainee legal counsel in social issues, supports his/her relationship maintenance or reestablishment with the family members, helps to create or preserve contacts with the employer, helps in overcoming the difficulties in learning, helps to solve the conflicts between the detainee and the prison officials or other detainees. The psychologists help the detainee to resocialize through individual counsel and group work (incl. social rehabilitation programs). The purpose of the social learning programs is to teach social skills to the detainee to help him/her cope in the society in the legally obedient manner.
In the release phase, the social worker helps the detainee to solve problems that have occurred due to the narrowing of external contacts. Often, the detainee has lost social ties, his/her home, job and income. By preparing for the release, the social worker helps the detainee in acquiring documents, finding a job and a place to live and to apply for support through the general welfare. If the detainee has the chance for a premature release, the social worker and psychologist will write a characterization where they assess the detainee's psychological state and the readiness to return to the society to live in the legally obedient manner.