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)


Should our criminal justice system seek to punish criminals, or to promote rehabilitation? How should we treat individuals who commit crimes in their youth? Is there a better way to spend the $71,000 a year that it costs to house an inmate in California?

In this course, you will critically examine criminal justice from a legal, political, economic, and historical perspective. Through guest speakers, field trips, documentaries, and reports from the front lines, you will learn about California’s recent efforts to reduce prison populations and increase community investments. Most powerfully, you will have first-hand interactions with the individuals who are most impacted by the criminal justice system, from those who are accused of crimes, to those who survive crimes, to those who prosecute and defend each side.


  • Meet lawyers and activists who are working to reform California’s criminal justice system
  • Explore different career opportunities in the field of criminal justice
  • Attend criminal court proceedings
  • Visit Homeboy Industries, a world-renowned organization that facilitates reentry for the formerly incarcerated
  • Analyze real legal cases

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.