Course Descriptions

For both the thesis and non-thesis tracks, 33 credits are required. For thesis students, this includes 6 credits of CRJ 797 (Thesis). Non-thesis students also get 2 credits of CRJ 795 (Comprehensive Exam) in addition to the 33 credits. Students complete both required and elective courses. At least one 3 credit elective class must be an in-person class (i.e., not independent study) with a CRJ or SRJS prefix. For more detailed information on courses, please review the course catalog


There are six required courses. One is a research methods course. Generally this will be SRJS 725 which is a research methods course designed specifically for students in the School of Social Research and Justice Studies (e.g., Criminal Justice, Sociology, Communications). However, advisors might allow substitution of research methods based on the student’s interests, abilities, and career goals.  Another course is a statistics class to be selected by the student and his or her advisor, based on the student’s interests, abilities, and career goals. The other four required courses are::



3 credits (Taught by Professor Matthew Leone)

Students arrive into the Criminal Justice graduate program from a variety of majors and institutions. Because of this reality, the Department of Criminal Justice designed a course that can serve the dual purposes of enhancing the understanding and knowledge of those already acquainted with criminal justice as an academic discipline, while familiarizing those outside the field with the structure, operations, and nuances of the justice system. This is the role of CRJ 740 within the Criminal Justice MA Program. As one of the six core classes in the program, students are exposed to a combination of classic and current readings, they discuss several of the most provocative and troubling aspects of the system, and they complete writing assignments designed to show a deeper understanding of the problems faced by the justice system. Historically, this class has assisted the students in discovering a topic which interests them enough to eventually become a thesis or professional paper. Students are evaluated based on several position papers, class participation, and a final class presentation

Required Readings:
Karmen, Andrew. (2010) Crime Victims: An Introduction to Victimology, 7th ed: Karmen.
Friedrichs, David O. (2004) Trusted Criminals: White Collar Crime in Contemporary Society.
Thistlethwaite, Amy B. and John Wooldredge, eds. (2010). 40 Studies That Changed Criminal Justice: Explorations into the History of Criminal Justice Research


3 credits (Taught by Professor Kenneth Peak)

Historically, change in criminal justice agencies was generally slow and incremental. Continuous change is now a constant rather than an exception, however, and the pace, magnitude, and frequency of change have also increased. If such change is unplanned, programs will often fail and result in negative consequences in the workplace. Remember, too, that major change occurring in one component of the justice system can have severe repercussions on the others if not anticipated and planned for. This course – which is highly interactive, writing-intensive, and case-study oriented - explores how change can be effectively planned and managed in CJ agencies.

Required Readings:
Criminal Justice Policy & Planning, by Welsh and Harris, 2012
American Criminal Justice Policy, Mears, 2010 (Recommended)


3 credits (Taught by Professor Timothy Griffin)

Through class discussions, weekly summary papers, and a comprehensive analysis paper, students will acquire a rich understanding of the state of, empirical research on, and ideological and political sources of American crime control policy.

Required Readings:
Tonry Michael (2004). Thinking About Crime: Sense and Sensibility in American Penal Culture.
Paternoster, Raymond, Brame, Robert and Sarah Bacon (200).The Death Penalty: America's Experience with Capital Punishment.
Zimring, Franklin (2007) The Great American Crime Decline
Pratt, Travis (2009) Addicted to Incarceration: Corrections Policy and the Politics of Misinformation in the United States
Sheldon, Randall (2010) Our Punitive Society: Race Class, Gender and Punishment in America
Wilson, James Q. and Joan Petersilia, eds., (2011)—Crime and Public Policy

[Additional Chapters on Reserve by Ed Lott and Franklin Zimring.]

3 credits (Taught by Professor Timothy Griffin)

The formulation of policy is an inherently moral activity which requires ethical introspection in order to 'do' justice. Because what is legal is not necessarily ethical and because justice is a much abused word, those who make, influence, or implement policy must be capable of examining their information, processes, and decisions from a variety of epistemological traditions. Classical, modern, and post-modern ethics grounded examination of positivistic, historical, and critical theory perspectives on policy formation, and some strengths and weaknesses of each as foundations for law and policy will be discussed. A major thread of this course is that law is policy not practice and will be approached both through a critical pedagogy methodology and the learning and application by students of several qualitative techniques, including Blackian Analysis and Hohfeld-Marsh Analysis. Another major thread throughout the course will be developing ethical insights into unintended consequences of justice policy and practice with particular reference to race/ethnicity, gender, and sexuality.

Required Readings:
Black, Donald (1976). The Behavior of Law
Huggins, Laura (2005). Drug War Deadlock: The Policy Battle Continues
Menand, Louis (2001). The Metaphysical Club: The Story of Ideas in America
Weston, Anthony (2001). A 21st Century Ethical Tool Box