UNT Dallas Criminal Justice Department launches innovative online graduate degree with mental health policy concentration

Monday, June 24, 2024

"New and Novel Approach" Endorsed by Local Professionals & Experts

Homelessness. Addiction. Incarceration. Those are just three examples of how mental health intersects with the criminal justice system. UNT Dallas is leading the way to empower leaders who can implement solutions to those challenges.

“I have seen firsthand how serious mental health issues are impacting our communities and the horrible impact they are having on our society,” said David Brown, former Dallas Police Chief and Chicago Police Superintendent.

Dallas Police Chief David Brown, July 2016. (Courtesy: CNN)


Dallas Police Chief David Brown During a Press Conference Following the Killings of Five Officers During an Ambush in July 2016. (Courtesy: CNN)

The need for new policies, strategies, and perspective has never been greater. UNT Dallas is committed to delivering an innovative higher education program that elevates current and future leaders in the criminal justice profession. They will gain extensive knowledge and the analytical skills necessary to effectively manage the enormous challenges that mental illness presents in the administration of justice.

“We, as law enforcement leaders, understand that we will not ‘arrest our way’ out of this situation,” said Charles Cato, a Texas peace officer for more than three decades. “As frontline observers, we must actively participate in developing robust mental health policies to address these issues proactively.”

A Police Officer Interviews Witness

A Police Officer Interviews a Witness at a Crime Scene

Recognizing the urgent need and critical challenges, the UNT Dallas Department of Criminal Justice and Sociology is introducing a first-of-its-kind 100% online Master of Science degree in Criminal Justice with a Concentration in Mental Health Policy. This graduate program, offered nationally by UNT Dallas, is now accepting applications and will launch in the Fall 2024 semester.

“This new and novel approach in criminal justice education will no doubt be a catalyst for the rest of the nation,” said Brown, who is just one of numerous public safety and criminal justice leaders endorsing the new UNT Dallas program.

The mental health crisis in America affects the police, the courts, and the correctional system. It intensifies violence, fuels addiction, worsens homelessness, and increases volatile jail and prison populations.

Judge Robert Francis with Graduates of a Drug Probation Program (Source: Reentry Court Solutions)

Judge Robert Francis with Graduates of a Drug Probation Program That Returns Offenders to the Community After a Short Time in Custody (Source: Reentry Court Solutions)

“Unfortunately, our jails and prisons have effectively become the largest provider of mental health services in the nation,” said Robert W. Francis, Senior State District Judge of the Dallas County 4-C Re-entry Court.

The 36 credit hour, online MSCJ degree is designed for working professionals. It is highly immersive, combining theory, application, and experiential learning into 8-week terms. Students will delve into the social and behavioral sciences and the relation of law and ethics to crime.

The concentration in Mental Health Policy focuses on the many connections between mental health and components of the criminal justice system. The curriculum is policy-focused and non-clinical. 

Dallas Police Assistant Chief Angela Shaw (Source: CBS News Texas)

Dallas Police Assistant Chief Angela Shaw Announces an Anti-Crime Initiative (Source: CBS News Texas)

“This new specialization offers a dynamic and forward-thinking approach to addressing mental health issues in every facet of policing and the criminal justice system,” said Angela Shaw, Assistant Chief of the Dallas Police Department. “It will solidify UNTD as a pioneer in reimagining public service and setting a new standard for creating mental health policy.”

The MSCJ with a Concentration in Mental Health Policy from UNT Dallas is a unique opportunity for individuals in leadership and service positions to increase their expertise and proficiency, positioning themselves for more impactful outcomes, significant achievements, and career advancement.

UNT Dallas recognizes that members of the criminal justice profession themselves are among those who need mental health support. 

The Caruth Police Institute at UNT Dallas operates the Texas Law Enforcement Peer Network and the Texas Blue Chip Program, which, in partnership with the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute, provide mental health services for law enforcement and public safety officers statewide.  

Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot (L) with Precinct 5 Constable Michael Orozco (Source: Facebook)

Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot (L) with Precinct 5 Constable Michael Orozco (Source: Facebook)

“The complexities surrounding mental health issues and their intersection with the criminal justice system demand a nuanced approach,” said John Creuzot, Dallas County District Attorney. “I believe this specialization will not only enhance the educational experience for students but also contribute to the broader societal goal of creating a more informed, compassionate, and effective criminal justice system.”

The UNT Dallas Department of Criminal Justice and Sociology is proud of its talented, committed faculty members, who have decades of real-world experience and established relationships with criminal justice professionals in multiple jurisdictions. “Individually and collectively, our faculty’s experience, expertise and dedication make UNT Dallas uniquely positioned to offer this innovative, 100% online degree,” said Dr. J. Eric Coleman, Senior Lecturer and MSCJ Program Coordinator in the UNT Dallas Department of Criminal Justice and Sociology.

Dr. J. Eric Coleman (First Row Center) with the MSCJ Faculty

Dr. J. Eric Coleman, MSCJ Progam Coordinator and Dept. of Criminal Justice & Sociology Senior Lecturer (First Row Center) with the MSCJ Faculty

“I believe UNTD’s Mental Health Policy track would provide criminal justice practitioners access to well-educated experts with broad-based knowledge and analytical skills needed to assist in our daily work,” said Judge Francis.

The deadline to apply for the Fall 2024 inaugural cohort is Aug. 5. Classes begin the week of Aug. 26.


From UNT Dallas – Criminal Justice and Sociology Online Graduate Degree