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CRIM3001 Penology

Module Overview

Penology is the study of punishment, in prison and in the community. Students are encouraged to think critically about the multiple purposes and debatable effectiveness of our contemporary modes of punishment, and to understand why this ‘end product’ of the criminal justice system has become, in recent decades, such a politically contested issue. Questions which CRIM3001 poses include: What is it society hopes to achieve when it punishes offenders? If the answer seems obvious, why do some theorists argue punishment has ‘hidden functions’ and why do approaches to punishment vary between countries? Why does, for example, the United States continue to use the death penalty, while Canada, Australia, and New Zealand have pioneered an approach known as restorative justice? Is either method more successful, in deterring or rehabilitating offenders, than our reliance on prison and probation? What is it like to go to, and spend years living in, prison? Is a term of imprisonment, or should it be, primarily a painful or positive experience? Do some categories of prisoners – women, for example, or sexual offenders - experience prison differently, and if so, does it matter? How does one successfully resettle in the community after a lengthy custodial sentence? It is intended that the module will conclude with an optional visit to HMP Winchester, so that students can apply the theoretical and conceptual insights they have gained to the everyday practices and realities encountered in a busy local prison.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

This advanced undergraduate module aims to foster an enhanced understanding and critical appreciation of contemporary policies, practices, and theories of punishment, and its experience for those subject to punishment, in prison and in the community.

Learning Outcomes

Learning Outcomes

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • The contested, multi-faceted purposes and contemporary use of the correctional services, in theory and practice, in England and Wales.
  • The wider, Western context of punishment including the use of the death penalty in the United States and the alternative theory and practice of punishment offered by restorative justice.
  • The realities of prison life for different categories of offenders and the challenges of successful resettlement in the community after a term of imprisonment.
  • Demonstrate research skills, including the ability to identify and gather appropriate library and web-based resources, to analyze them, and to use them to construct a coherent and logical argument.
  • Demonstrate organizational and time management skills.
  • Demonstrate an ability to work both independently and constructively with others.
  • Demonstrate an ability to think critically and independently and to problem-solve.
  • Demonstrate an ability to utilize ideas and research from social sciences and to understand the value of interdisciplinary approaches.
  • Demonstrate written and verbal skills of comprehension, analysis, evaluation, comparison, interpretation, presentation, and debate.


Penology is organized around three substantive themes: Punishment in practice and theory; Experiences of imprisonment; and After imprisonment. We begin by reviewing the contemporary practices of imprisonment and probation (supervision in the community) in England and Wales. We then compare the seemingly straightforward criminal justice purposes of punishment, with more controversial, sociological theoretical perspectives, and situate the expansion in the use of imprisonment within its international context. Relatedly, we consider two alternative approaches to punishment; capital punishment and restorative justice. The second theme focuses upon the sociology of imprisonment and how the prison experience differs for 'vulnerable' populations. Our final theme is the the theory and practice of release and resettlement.

Special Features

The module is intended to include an educational visit to HMP Winchester or another custodial establishment. The visit is dependent upon permission from the Governor-in-Charge and an absence of operational problems on the day of the visit. The travel costs are covered by the department. Prisons are subject to disability discrimination legislation and therefore have a duty to ensure access to most areas for people with mobility difficulties. While participation on the educational visit is encouraged, it is an optional element of the module and any student who feels that the visit(s) would be psychologically harmful is advised not to attend. Participation in the visit is not integral to the assessment strategy and therefore any student who elects not to attend, will not be disadvantaged.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

The module is taught through a combination of lectures and seminars delivered and facilitated by academic staff, with learning consolidated by students’ private study and exam preparation.

Independent Study126
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

• Jewkes, Y., Bennett, J. and Crewe, B. (Eds) (2016) Handbook on Prisons, 2nd edition. Abingdon: Routledge.. 

Easton, S. and Piper, C. (2013). Sentencing and Punishment: The Quest for Justice. 

Hudson, B. (2003). Understanding Justice: An Introduction to Ideas, Perspectives and Controversies in Modern Penal Theory. 

Cavadino, M., Dignan, J. and Mair, G. (2013). The Penal System: An Introduction. 



MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (2000 words) 40%
Exam  (2 hours) 60%


MethodPercentage contribution
Exam  (180 minutes) 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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