Criminal Justice Studies Minor

"The quality of a nation’s civilization can be largely measured by the methods it uses in the enforcement of the criminal law." – Walter SchaferCrime constitutes one of the major political and social problems in the United States. By a large margin, the U.S. has the highest crime rate in the developed world. Even more so than the actual level of crime, Americans fear crime and victimization. A recent leveling off in the victimization rate has now given way to a renewed increase in crime. In the face of this perceived threat, the U.S. has historically reacted with law-and-order crime policies that have featured harsher criminal laws, tougher enforcement, and longer punishment. Initiatives have focused mainly on "evil" individuals. Emphasizing retributive justice, we've launched repeated wars on crime and wars on drugs, assuming that more force would best combat the crime problem.

But why does crime remain so high? And where is the "justice" in criminal justice? As former Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter once suggested: "Loose talk about war against crime too easily infuses the administration of justice with the psychology and morals of war…the process of waging war, no matter how it is rationalized, is a process of moral deterioration." Can't we do better?

The Criminal Justice Studies (CJS) minor looks beyond conventional policies to diagnose why get-tough programs fail, and what might work better. Rather than emphasizing only individual offenders, the minor examines the environment American society provides for potential criminals. Exploring the possibilities of restorative justice, it focuses on the political and social sources of crime and violence. The minor analyzes a range of criminal behavior, including juvenile delinquency, social deviance, blue- and what-collar crime, and state, political, and corporate crime. It assesses the impact of crime on victims, and the potential for their manipulation in the crime policymaking process. It explores the effects of social inequality on crime, including the influence of class, race, gender, and the nation's broader political economy. It investigates criminal stereotyping, and the media's role in shaping the public's perception of crime and its solution. It examines the criminal process, from crime policies and drug policies, to enforcement to prosecution to punishment. It studies the constitutional rights of the accused, contrasts the differences between crime control and social control, and examines our history of political trials. And, it evaluates the emerging U.S. criminal-justice-industrial complex.

The CJS minor provides a compelling liberal arts specialization, for its own sake. It's also valuable for students who might be considering a criminal justice or other public service career, or for those who want to pursue graduate or law degrees. The CJS curriculum is drawn from disciplines such as politics, sociology, philosophy, and media studies. Each student's minor program is capped by a field experience, set in a Bay Area criminal justice agency, such as San Quentin prison, or in organizations such as the Prisoner's Union, Death Penalty Focus, the Youth Law Project, and the American Civil Liberties Union, or in government agencies such as the San Francisco District Attorney's Office, the Office of Victim Assistance, and the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms.

While primarily an academic program, Legal Studies sponsors or supports various on-campus and off-campus activities and groups, including the Undergraduate Law Society. Our speakers series has featured recent talks by Center for Constitutional Rights President David Cole; maverick lawyer, Gerry Spence; former San Francisco District Attorney Terence Hallinan; California Supreme Court Justice and USF alumnus Ming Chin; consumer law advocate Ralph Nader; various law school deans; and many others. We have a growing relationship with the USF Human Rights Working Group and with USF's School of Law (and its Center for Law and Global Justice). We have a small library of law school materials, and through our Pre-Professional Law Committee, faculty advise students on the legal profession and on legal curricula and admissions. Our recent graduates have gone on to law and graduate schools at universities such as Georgetown, Harvard, Washington, Tulane, Columbia, NYU, Yale, American, USC, UC Berkeley, UC San Diego, Hastings and UC Davis.


Under our 4 + 3 Law Program, USF students (in any major) will have the opportunity to gain automatic admission to USF's School of Law if they have a minimum 3.2 GPA, a minimum 56th percentile LSAT score, and complete either the Legal Studies or Criminal Justice Studies minor.