UNT Dallas Pioneers Online Grad Degree in Criminal Justice To Tackle Mental Health Crisis

Dallas County Judge Robert W. Francis says that jails and prisons have "effectively become America's largest mental health providers." UNT Dallas' new online master's degree in Criminal Justice takes a forward-thinking approach to education in the field.

The University of North Texas at Dallas is accepting applications for an innovative, “first-of-its-kind” Master of Science in Criminal Justice with a Concentration in Mental Health Policy program that launches this fall.

It’s a 100% online graduate program offered nationally by UNT Dallas. The last day to apply is August 5, and classes begin August 26.

UNT Dallas said that North Texas criminal justice, public safety, and mental health professionals unanimously support its launch of the new master’s degree program.

“Unfortunately, our jails and prisons have effectively become the largest provider of mental health services in the nation,” Robert W. Francis, senior state district judge of the Dallas County 4-C Re-entry Court, said in a statement.

UNT Dallas said that the mental health crisis in North Texas and across the nation affects the police, the courts, and the correctional system and that it intensifies violence, fuels addiction, worsens homelessness, and increases volatile jail and prison populations.

The university said that as a result, there is a heightened need for new policies, strategies, and solutions.

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

‘Creating a more informed, compassionate, and effective criminal justice system’

UNT Dallas said the cutting-edge program will elevate current and future leaders in the criminal justice profession, including law enforcement officers, court and legal professionals, corrections officers, and other public safety practitioners.

“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,” said Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot.

According to the university, students in the program will receive extensive knowledge and the analytical skills necessary to effectively manage the enormous challenges that mental illness presents in the administration of justice.

“Individually and collectively, our faculty’s experience, expertise, and dedication make UNT Dallas uniquely positioned to offer this degree,” added J. Eric Coleman, senior lecturer and Master of Science in Criminal Justice (MSCJ) Program Coordinator in the UNT Dallas Department of Criminal Justice and Sociology.

Former Dallas Police Chief David Brown said the program could have national implications.

“This new and novel approach in criminal justice education will no doubt be a catalyst for the rest of the nation,” Brown said in a statement.

UNT Dallas is the newest member of the UNT System and is the city’s only public four-year university. It’s located in southern Dallas and offers students a world-class, innovative education with affordable tuition and minimal debt. UNT Dallas said it;s committed to developing, nurturing, and empowering the next generation of servant leaders in North Texas.

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