It may be a dream afraid of waking up, or it may be a dream coming to realization in the next morning.

Friday, February 25, 2011

What Makes Social Work Part I

The reason why I'm inspired to talk about this is because my classmates and I are given a task to write a paper by a lecturer of ours on the integrated focus of social work and why it is important in ensuring the effectiveness of the intervention programs a social worker develops for his or her client.

Social work is based on a lot of other disciplines in social sciences. It is based on the theories and perspectives from psychology, sociology, political science, and even economics. But what differentiates social work from the rest of them? If social work is mostly nothing new, then why the need of the development of the practice? Well, I could answer it from the integrated part of the practice and field.

A social worker who is serious in his or her job should understand that an individual is comprised of a lot of factors. There's the psychological part, the social part, the emotional part, etc. The different field in social science deals with the different factors that make a person, and social work tries to synthesize the understanding and analysis so a person can be understood in holistic manner.

In systems theory, it is asserted that an individual is situated in a place where there are layers of interactions. There is a layer between an individual and him- or herself. There is another one that involves the person with the family, or the friends, or the colleagues from the workplace. There is also the interaction between the people in his or her life, such as between the family and the workplace. Then, there is a larger layer that consists of the political system, culture, and demography of the person. All this, according to Urie Bronfenbrenner specifically, who developed the ecological theory, have an impact on a person's life and how he or she is grown.

Therefore, understanding a system that a person lives in is the important part of social work, that somehow differentiates social work from other disciplines. This "integratedness" shows how important for a country to develop the knowledge and practice within it, and train a lot of practitioners to be skillful in this field.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Two Sides of Police Brutality

In 2008, Prabakar, a Malaysian Indian, was beaten and scalded with boiled water under interrogation. Prabakar was accused with aiding a group of thugs to rob unsuspecting drivers in a parking area at Kuala Lumpur. Prabakar, following the violent treatment, reported the unfortunate occurrence to the police headquarters hoping for some justice.

In 2009, one Malaysian Indian, Kugan, died under the police custody with presumable cause of death was water in the lung. But, the family smelled something wrong, and when they requested for the right of the body, they found that there were a lot of bruises in the late Kugan's body which might be attributed to the death.

There are a lot of other cases too that involve police brutality in this country. There are two sides of this issue and I'm neither on any. One side says that the police are just doing their work. Without them, the criminals will still most probably walk around victimizing other people. Another side claims that violence and brutality are never the answer nor the way to obtain confession from the offenders. No matter what they do or did, they are still human.

We all have heard the concept of "good cop" and "bad cop" in interrogation. The "good cops" are usually calm and receptive of cooperation. They are more likely to offer positive outcome if the suspects confess or give any information that can lead to convicting. The "bad cops" use harshness and force, yell, and hit on things such as the table to create a fearful vibe in the interrogation room. A more brutal "bad cop" would resort to using violence on the suspects themselves. Research shows how likely it is for the second way or coercion to lead to false confession. Rather than solving the crime, the police would just catch the wrong guy and let the true offender run free in the society.

You see, being the "bad cops" does not really solve anything. It does not reduce the crime rates either. But, I am not siding on "good cops" here too, because "good cops" do not exactly yield desirable outcomes too. So, what can we do? I'd prefer to note the way police obtain evidence. There are a lot of ways to obtain evidence such as the statements from peers, statements from victims, materials searching, and of course, direct confessions from the suspects but the police are very much depending on confessions. This might be related to the fact that they want to close a case as soon as possible so their performance will be rated good. This leads to the discussion of the system the police work in. The system might only use the solving of crime cases to indicate performance while the process to solve them is not counted as such.

Training on pros and cons of every evidence obtainment should be held to create awareness among the police on the hazards of coercion in interrogations. The system might also be taught with thew idea that quality is better than the quantity, that leads to the question, is a case really solved when it is closed too quickly? There should be an effective unit of internal affair to investigate the police themselves and the cases they are working on.

These are just some brief and simple suggestions to reduce the use of "bad cops" strategy in police interrogation in this country. I hope that some extensive research will be done in emphasis of Malaysian context. I hope too that some measures will be taken soon to really reduce the crime rates in Malaysia.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Constantly Uncertain Life

A wise man used to say, "The future is never certain..." He's right, but the more right sentence would be, "The future is never certain, neither is the present..." Life is filled with uncertainty and for most people, it gives them something major to worry about. They would worry if the there'd be an accident if traveling at night, or that something is wrong with the car, or that they might not wake up early to catch the flight, or that the flight might be canceled, or even if there'd be something wrong with the plane that might make it crash down, or their lecturer might hate their assignment, or the soft copy of the file might lose due to a crashed computer, or bla bla bla bla.....

One thing though, these worries are legitimate. What they worry about could happen and is a possibility. But you see, when we talk about this, we basically talk about two types of people: The ones who worry too much, and the ones who couldn't care less. Oh wait, how about the people who care but they don't worry too much? Well, speaking from my personal experience, this kind of people rarely exist so they don't really make the third type. And I'm basically the first type. Which leads me to this entry after all. The people in my life either need to cool down and have a little faith, or man up and have a little courage. But the how part can be tricky.

Leahy (2008) has some suggestions for the first type of people. He first asks the worriers if there are anyone in the world who actually live this life in certainty. And no, there's no such person. Every single individual in the world, successful or not, is uncertain about the present and the future. But rather than worrying about the uncertain, he invites us to focus on the issues that we can work on, that has real solutions. He also states that uncertainty has its own advantages. A lot of times too when we are surprised by the occurrence of pleasant things in our lives, and when they are uncertain in the first place, don't they make us happier? Doesn't getting an unexpected bonus makes you happier than the regular salary every month? Even if the amount of the bonus is smaller than the salary? So, bottom line is, enjoy uncertainty, because a lot of times they can turn out to be the pleasant ones.

For more information you can visit Leahy's blog in Psychology Today. It's informative and practical to read.