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Unit information: A Sociology of Crime and Justice in 2016/17

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Unit name A Sociology of Crime and Justice
Unit code SOCI20073
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Naughton
Open unit status Not open




School/department School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law


What is 'crime'? What causes it? Is the criminal justice system fair? Does it deal with the most significant forms of behaviour or activities that cause us/society the most harm? Is imprisonment an appropriate or effective remedy in the fight to reduce crime? These are the kind of questions explored by this unit. It looks at how public discourses fail to distinguish between 'crime' and 'justice'. A more sociological approach, however, emphasises the way in which not only criminal activity, but also the State's response to it, and our ways of thinking about it, are socially produced and constructed. The wider category of 'justice' requires attention to other significant causes of harm, some of which are created by the criminal justice system itself.

The Unit will:

  • Help students understand the social construction of crime and criminal law.
  • Explain the working of the criminal justice system
  • Show how the conflation of ‘crime and justice’ obscures a full understanding of social harm.

Intended learning outcomes

Level 5

On successful completion of the unit, students will be able to:

  • Describe and analyse the social character of crime and justice;
  • Asses the limitations of the criminal justice system in addressing crime and social harm;
  • Respond critically to media representations of crime and justice.

Teaching details

2 hours of lectures and 1 hour seminar.

Assessment Details

  • 1500 word essay (25%)
  • 2 hour exam (75%)

Both assessments test all learning outcomes listed above.

Reading and References

  • Hillyard, P. Pantazis, C. Gordon, D. & Tombs, S. (2004) (Editors) Social Harm: Beyond Criminology London: Pluto Press.
  • Maguire, M. Morgan, R. & Reiner, R. (2007) (eds) The Oxford handbook of criminology (4th Edition) Oxford: Clarendon Press.
  • Muncie, J. McLaughlin, E. & Langan, M. (1997) (Editors) Criminological Perspectives: A Reader London: SAGE Publications.
  • Box, S. (1984) Power, Crime And Mystification London: Routledge.