Criminal Justice program

Undergrad minor

Are you interested in a career in the criminal or juvenile justice system?

With a criminal justice minor, you will expand your understanding of deviance, crime, approaches to justice, law enforcement, courts, corrections and more.

UWL's Criminal Justice minor is an interdisciplinary program that is complementary to a variety of majors. The minor can lead to diverse careers in areas such as law and policy, justice and corrections, social work, or in local, state or national law enforcement. The minor is fully grounded in the liberal arts, and prepares students through development of a sound knowledge base and analytical and critical thinking skills necessary in the field.

Criminal justice jobs

The criminal justice minor will be advantageous to those seeking entry-level careers in criminal and juvenile justice, private security or corrections, or those who are considering graduate or professional school in criminology or criminal justice. Students may also pursue studies leading to law school or other graduate school programs. Jobs in criminal justice-related fields for students with a bachelor's degree in a major field of study with a minor in criminal justice include all entry-level law enforcement and corrections positions, as well as social service related fields such as case management, reentry programming and planning, or social service specialist positions.

What distinguishes UWL's Criminal Justice minor?

Applicable to a variety of majors

The criminal justice minor is complementary to a variety of major programs offered at UWL. Majors in sociology; political science; public administration; psychology; philosophy; Spanish; geography; accountancy; computer science; chemistry; therapeutic recreation; communications studies; economics; race, gender, and sexuality studies; or the pre-law program (in conjunction with a major), will maximize student experiences and opportunities in criminal justice related fields.

Internships, community engagement and career exploration

Internships, community engagement, and career exploration are at the forefront of department faculty interests, and faculty consistently provide the encouragement, support and advising students need to pursue these activities. Students have completed internships in a wide variety of settings throughout Wisconsin and the U.S. Recent examples of internships show the diversity of opportunity.

  • La Crosse County District Attorney’s Office
  • WI State Public Defender, La Crosse County
  • La Crosse County Justice Support Services
  • La Crosse County Probation & Parole
  • La Crosse Police Department
  • La Crosse County Sheriff's Office
  • City of Onalaska Municipal Court
  • Department of Natural Resources (DNR)
  • Coulee Recovery Center
Interdisciplinary program = marketable skills

Given that the criminal justice system is not an independent institution and logically reflects the structure, ideas and concerns of society, the Criminal Justice program draws from a variety of academic disciplines, including sociology; political science; psychology; race, gender and sexuality studies; philosophy; geography and history. The minor requires a minimum of 21 credits, and courses must come from at least three different departments. A maximum of three credits may be counted toward the fulfillment of both the criminal justice minor and a student's major. Through the program, students gain skills and breadth of knowledge expected of those working in a complex and diverse society, which allows them to expand their working knowledge of these areas to develop marketable skills for their future.

Direct work with local and state agency programs

Criminal Justice program faculty work directly with local and state agencies on various programs, providing real world examples and opportunities for their students.

  • Community Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) (Dr. Shanna Felix)
  • Criminal Justice Management Council (Dr. Kruse)
  • Fresh Start Jail Reentry Grant Program (Dr. Bakken and Dr. Kruse))
  • Human Rights Policing Certificate Program (Dr. Marina)
  • La Crosse County District Attorney's Office (Dr. Felix, Dr. Kruse, and Dr. Bakken)
  • La Crosse County Drug Treatment Court Evaluation (Dr. Kruse and Dr. Bakken)
  • La Crosse County Disproportionate Community Juvenile Justice and Disproportionate Minority Contact Task Force (Dr. Bakken and Dr. Kruse)
  • La Crosse County Justice Support Services Treatment and Diversion Program Evaluation. (Dr. Kruse and Dr. Bakken)
  • La Crosse County Study Committee on Policing (Dr. Kruse)
  • La Crosse County System of Care Evaluation (Dr. Kruse and Dr. Bakken)
  • La Crosse County Youth Justice Evaluation (Dr. Bakken and Dr. Kruse)
  • La Crosse Police Department (Dr. Marina)
  • School Resource Officer (SRO) Advisory Committee for the La Crosse School District (Dr. Kruse)
Courses provide knowledge for effective decision making

Evidence-based policy choices and practices about crime and justice require an understanding of the etiology of crime, criminal behavior, criminal justice processes, and the law. The study of criminal justice at UWL addresses these phenomena. The program is structured around a core of criminal justice courses on such topics as criminological theory, drug use and mental illness, law enforcement, juvenile delinquency, corrections, victimology and criminal law.

Sample courses

SOC 324 Criminal Justice This course provides an overview of the United States criminal justice system. Issues relating to various segments of the criminal justice system, such as the administration of justice, the police, courts, and correctional systems are explored. Prerequisite: SOC 110 or SOC 120 or SOC 202 or ANT 101. Offered Fall, Spring.

SOC 323 Corrections and Penology This course provides an interdisciplinary review of criminal punishment and correctional systems in the U.S. This course examines dominant punishment philosophies such as deterrence, incapacitation, retribution and rehabilitation. Both institutional and community-based approaches to corrections are covered and particular attention is devoted to understanding the social context of current practices, the nature of correctional populations, and the management of correctional systems. Prerequisite: SOC 110 or SOC 120 or SOC 202 or ANT 101. Offered Spring.

SOC 321 Delinquency This course is an overview of the sociological study of delinquency, with special emphasis on competing theoretical perspectives. In the process of learning about theoretical perspectives aimed at explaining delinquency, this course will pay special attention to gender delinquency, gangs, current events regarding delinquency and the U.S. juvenile justice system. Prerequisite: SOC 110 or SOC 120 or SOC 202 or ANT 101. Offered Spring.

SOC 322 Criminology This course provides an overview of the sociological study of crime in the United States, with a special emphasis on patterns of criminality, competing theoretical explanations of crime, and societal responses to crime. As part of the examination of crime in the U.S., the course explores the definitions, measurement, and patterns of various types of criminal behavior; theory and research on crime; the roles of the victim and offender and the implications of public policy. Specific crimes covered include homicide, hate/bias crime, assault, and white-collar crime. Prerequisite: SOC 110 or SOC 120 or SOC 202 or ANT 101. Offered Fall.

SOC 325 Sociology of Mental Illness An examination of mental health and illness, and mental health care systems in the U.S. and other industrialized and non-industrialized societies, including: the processes involved in identifying and recruiting patients into the mental health care system; a social analysis of psychotherapy, including talk therapies, medications, electro-convulsive treatment and psychosurgery; and social organization of mental hospitals and of community mental health centers; socio-legal issues related to mental illness; and a review and synthesis of social psychological and sociological theories relevant to understanding mental health and illness. Prerequisite: SOC 110 or SOC 120 or SOC 202 or ANT 101 or PSY 100. Offered Fall.

SOC 330 Social Psychology Social psychology from a sociological perspective. Primary attention is given to social behavior and communication patterns in terms of their genesis and change in the context of social groups and social relationships. Prerequisite: SOC 110 or SOC 120 or SOC 202 or ANT 101 or PSY 100. Students may only earn credit in SOC 330 or PSY 241. Offered Alternate Years.

SOC 326 Sociopharmacology The study of the social structural factors related to drug use with emphasis on change at the societal level in dealing with the drug problem. This course examines the current and historical patterns of drug use in society. The emphasis will be on understanding the sequence of initiation, use, and misuse of psychoactive drugs. This course will focus on the social problems and social policy aspects of drugs. Question addressed include: How does society choose which drugs to treat as social problems? What are the potential versus real life effects of current laws and policies intended to curb drug use? What are the treatment and prevention strategies used today? What kinds of programs are successful and why? Prerequisite: SOC 110 or SOC 120 or SOC 202 or ANT 101. Offered Spring.

POL 221 The American Legal System An introductory survey of the American legal system in operation; utilizing case materials, class discussion, and hypothetical conflict situations to illustrate and study the range of problems, proceedings, actions, and remedies encountered. Offered Fall, Spring.

PSY 204 Abnormal Psychology This course introduces students to various clinical presentations of psychopathology that may occur throughout human development from a trauma-informed perspective. It provides an overview of specific psychological disorders as well as disorder-specific etiological considerations, associated clinical features, defining characteristics, and diagnostic criteria. The course also includes overviews of current treatments for the major disorders, and ethical considerations in mental health care. Prerequisite: PSY 100 or PSY 212; sophomore standing. Offered Fall, Spring, Summer.

SOC 313 Law and Society This course examines the law as a social construction. This involves exploring the notion that the civil and criminal law, deviance and criminal behavior, and various actors in the legal and criminal justice arenas are not to be taken for granted as natural, inevitable, and objective but rather, as rooted in social and political forces. Thus, this course explores the historical development of the law, social change, inequalities in the application of the law, why we obey or fail to obey the law, and heavily debated contemporary US laws. Prerequisite: SOC 110 or SOC 120 or SOC 202 or ANT 101. Offered Annually.