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Unit information: Punishment in Society in 2018/19

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Unit name Punishment in Society
Unit code SPOL20052
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Professor. Pantazis
Open unit status Open




School/department School for Policy Studies
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law


The aim of this unit is to provide a comprehensive and critical analysis of past and present penal policies. Throughout the unit this insights of sociological, historical and critical theory will be used to further our understandings of contemporary penal policy and practice in Britain and a selected number of other countries.


The unit will provide an overview of the development of past and contemporary penal policy both nationally and internationally. It will review the main justifications for punishment and evaluate different theoretical explanations for the evolution of punishment in society. It will examine key developments in contemporary penal policy, and understand the drivers for these shifts, and explore key debates concerning society's use of punishment.

Intended learning outcomes

By the end of the unit, students will be able to:

Demonstrate an understanding of past and recent developments in penal policy and practice.

Show an understanding of the influence of theories and research which are effecting current developments

Demonstrate critical insights into some of the key issues of concern relating to how society punishes

Teaching details

Lectures and seminars.

Assessment Details

Formative: (maximum) 2500 word essay to assess and support the students' preparations for the summative assessment

Summative (100%): a 3000 word essay which will enable the students to meet the intended learning outcomes for this unit

All assessment is marked against the published marking criteria for that level (1/5), as stated in the Social Policy Programme handbook

Reading and References

  • Canton, R. (2017) Why Punish? An Introduction to the Philosophy of Punishment, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan
  • Cavandino, M., Dignan, J and Mair, G. (2013, 5th ed) The Penal System, London: Sage
  • Jewkes, Y, Crewe, B. and Bennett, J. (2016, 2nd ed) Prison Handbook, London: Routledge
  • Reiman, J. (2017, 11th ed) Rich get richer and the poor get prison, S.I.: Routledge
  • Scott, D. and Flynn, N (2014, 2nd ed) Prisons and Punishment: The Essentials, London: Sage