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The University of Southampton

LAWS2024 Criminal Justice

Module Overview

What is the purpose of the criminal justice system? What is the appropriate role of the police? How have efforts to rehabilitate offenders changed over recent decades? How are political priorities re-shaping criminal justice? These are some of the questions that are central to 'Criminal Justice'. This module explores the policy and practice of key criminal justice institutions, including the police, probation and prisons. It will consider the duties and activities of these institutions, and the challenges that they face in an era of rapid change. The module will do so in light of key theoretical debates regarding the purpose and nature of criminal justice. In summary, this module will enable students to explore the roles and historical trajectory of key criminal justice institutions and to critically analyse their appropriate future direction. Teaching is informed by relevant academic staff's published and ongoing research.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • the historical development of key criminal justice institutions;
  • the nature and functions of criminal justice institutions and the broader context in which they operate;
  • Key topical developments in criminal justice and related theoretical concepts.
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • describe and critically assess the nature and functions of key criminal justice institutions;
  • define and critically evaluate the impact of trends such as the 'rise of risk' and the rise of 'penal populism' on criminal justice;
  • analyse the strengths and weaknesses of arguments for alternative approaches to criminal justice.
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • locate and analyse relevant primary and secondary resources;
  • distinguish relevant from irrelevant materials;
  • construct and defend an argument and communicate in writing;
  • conduct a piece of self-directed independent research in a specific area under pressure of time.


The precise content of the module will be influenced by the teaching team’s ongoing research and topical developments of the day. The following is an indicative list of module content: - What is the purpose of the criminal justice system? - Policing - Prisons - Probation - Sentencing - Parole - Risk and criminal justice - Penal populism

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include: Lectures The lectures will provide you with an overview of each substantive topic, highlighting key issues. Reading lists provided in advance will outline critical issues, required reading, questions and guidance for further study. Tutorials Tutorials will provide you with an opportunity to address specific criminal justice practices, institutions and issues relevant to the module in greater detail. Learning activities include: - Directed Reading (as per distributed reading lists) - Preparing and writing formative coursework, with critical self-reflection on your own performance throughout this process. - Preparation for lectures - Participating in class discussion, including small group work

Wider reading or practice10
Preparation for scheduled sessions60
Completion of assessment task50
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Cavadigno, Dignan and Mair (2013). The Penal System: An Introduction. 

Library Resources. The principal library resources exist and are accessible through the Hartley Library's existing print and electronic holdings.

Newburn (2017). Criminology. 





MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (4000 words) 100%


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (4000 words) 100%


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (4000 words) 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External


Costs associated with this module

Students are responsible for meeting the cost of essential textbooks, and of producing such essays, assignments, laboratory reports and dissertations as are required to fulfil the academic requirements for each programme of study.

In addition to this, students registered for this module typically also have to pay for:


The module does not carry any additional costs for you. The reading lists are drawn from materials already available in or through the University Library including electronic resources. You may wish to purchase the mandatory textbooks, which cost approximately 30GBP and 20GBP respectively.

Please also ensure you read the section on additional costs in the University’s Fees, Charges and Expenses Regulations in the University Calendar available at

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