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Criminal Law, Justice & Inequality

The Criminal Law, Justice & Inequality BDP allows students to examine the institutions that shape the origins, functions, and effects of the criminal legal system—from policing, to courts, to prisons—in social life. Drawing on insights from sociology, law, history, government, social work, education, and ethnic and gender studies, among other disciplines, students in this BDP will explore different perspectives on the centrality, legitimacy, and impact of the criminal legal system in the United States in its current form, historically, and comparatively. In addition to learning about the system’s form and function, students will learn about research-based approaches to understanding the causes and consequences of individuals’ involvement with the system, with attention to its intersection with race, ethnicity, gender, citizenship, and other categories of identity and the ways in which social inequalities affect and are affected by the system. Students will consider what crime is, how we define crime, and how society responds to behaviors defined as crime.
The Criminal Law, Justice & Inequality BDP helps prepare students to pursue a variety of career paths, whether working directly in parts of the criminal legal system, on policy or advocacy related to the system, or in intersecting fields such as education, social work, or journalism. Through the Connecting Experiences component of the program, students interested in pursuing graduate school or careers related to this topic will benefit from the opportunity to engage in undergraduate research and/or internship experiences related to the criminal legal system. 

For a complete list of courses and requirements, view the Criminal Law, Justice & Inequality BDP curriculum sheet.


With 19 credit hours of coursework and Connecting Experiences, students may earn a BDP certificate in Criminal Law, Justice & Inequality.

Courses counting toward a BDP in Criminal Law, Justice & Inequality may also satisfy core, major, and elective requirements in a student’s degree plan. With planning, the BDP should not add time to students’ UT careers but instead helps students choose the courses they already have to take in an integrated way.

Foundation Course [4 hours]

Foundation Courses introduce key methodologies and issues related to Criminal Law, Justice & Inequality, and examine how social inequality intersects with the criminal legal system.

  • Forum Seminar
  • Foundation Course

Courses in a Strand [9 hours]

Students must complete 9 credit hours of approved Strand Courses from the following categories:

  • Social Inequality
  • Law and Policy
  • Application Across Fields

Connecting Experiences [6 hours]

BDP advisors assist students in finding meaningful connecting research and/or internship experiences related to Criminal Law, Justice & Inequality.

Integration Essay

Students write a three to four-page essay written at the end of the BDP experience, drawing together the different pieces of the BDP.

Faculty Panel

An interdisciplinary faculty panel guides students in choosing courses and identifying connecting research and internship experiences that allow them to explore issues related to Criminal Law, Justice & Inequality as they connect to students’ majors and career goals.