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The University of Southampton

CRIM6005 Life Behind Bars

Module Overview

This module seeks to understand the complex role of imprisonment in contemporary society. We engage with the key theoretical and conceptual issues surrounding prison governance and order and control in the prison, and how this relates to prison social life and both the institution's and the individual's aspirations for rehabilitation. We further explore the contentious debates surrounding prisoners' legal and human rights, and compare our penal system with that of the United States and Nordic countries.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

The aim of the module is for students to acquire and demonstrate an advanced level of knowledge and understanding of the complex issues surrounding imprisonment, penal policy and practice, and correctional rehabilitation. While our focus is England and Wales, in order to deepen our appreciation of the merits and demerits of our system, and perceive common problems inherent to imprisonment, international comparisons are embedded throughout our studies.

Learning Outcomes

Learning Outcomes

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Utilise interdisciplinary perspectives from criminology, sociology, psychology, and law and hence to appreciate the value of interdisciplinary approaches to issues in criminology and criminal justice.
  • Critically examine theoretical and empirical accounts of the diverse experiences of imprisonment, for diverse populations, and evaluate the contribution of this literature to an understanding of the rehabilitative (or otherwise) properties of the prison
  • Critically assess and interpret policy, data, theory, and literature.
  • Demonstrate an ability to work both independently and constructively with others.
  • Generate and present verbal and written arguments.
  • Develop superior problem-solving, critical thinking, and research skills, using library and electronic resources.
  • Compare and contrast the practice of imprisonment in England and Wales with international examples of penal ‘exceptionalism’.
  • Understand, apply, and critically assess human rights law and its policy implications, specifically in relation to prisoners and immigration detainees.


The module begins by reviewing the contested aims and outcomes of imprisonment before proceeding to consider prison governance; specific aspects of the prison experience and how this is differentiated according to offending needs, gender, and race; prison law, human rights, inspection and accountability; and the comparative study of penal systems. It is also anticipated that students will be able, if they so wish, to undertake two educational visits to prisons with specialist functions.

Special Features

The module is intended to include two fieldtrips to custodial establishments. These visits are always dependent upon permission from the Governor-in-Charge and an absence of operational problems on the day of the visit. The costs of the fieldtrips 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 fieldtrips is encouraged, they are optional elements of the module and any student who feels that the visit(s) would be psychologically harmful is advised not to attend. Participation in the fieldtrips 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 postgraduate module is taught through nine, two hour participatory seminars, and two day-long educational fieldtrips. Learning occurs through reading, analysis, and group discussion of key literature, further independent research, and observing and interacting with prison staff and prisoners.

Independent Study116
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Reading List. As a postgraduate module, textbooks are not set. Students are provided with an extensive reading list and are expected to complete a range of readings, predominantly research monographs and journal articles.



MethodPercentage contribution
Essay 100%


MethodPercentage contribution
Coursework assignment(s) 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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