Exploring Criminal Justice


3.0 units of USC credit




Monday through Friday, 9:00am – 4:00pm

Special Dress Code

Professional attire for court visits (see note below)


What is the goal of our criminal justice system? To punish criminals? To promote rehabilitation? Should crime victims have a say in the process? And what are we to make of racial disparities in jails and prisons?

In this course, you will critically examine criminal justice from a legal, political, economic, and historical perspective. You will concentrate on California’s recent efforts to reform its criminal justice system through reducing prison populations and increasing community investments. These developments will be analyzed in the broader context of an increasing bi-partisan agreement that our traditional approach to law enforcement simply isn’t working. Through this course, you will both better understand the nuances of the criminal justice system and grapple with what it means, as a society, to be “tough on crime.”


  • Meet activists who are working to reform California’s criminal justice system
  • Attend criminal court proceedings
  • Analyze real legal cases
  • Draft and debate policy proposals to reduce racial disparities in law enforcement

Topic of Study

  • Criminal Justice
  • Legal Ethics
  • Political Science
  • Philosophy of Law
  • Race

Note: The daily schedule for this course varies on the days students visit the court; there will be an earlier departure time from campus and the lunch schedule may be adjusted.

Special Dress Code

On court visit days, students must follow a respectful, professional dress code (slacks, button-down shirt, dress/skirt, blouse) and wear closed toe shoes. The following are not permitted: jeans, tank tops, extreme low-rise pants, low cut tops, bare back or bare midriff, flip-flops. Students will not be permitted to attend the court visits if they do not follow the dress code.