The University of Southampton
Courses

LAWS3074 Penal Policy

Module Overview

England and Wales now imprisons a greater proportion of its population than any other country in Western Europe, the population in custody having doubled in 12 years. Yet the prison population continues to grow. The criminal justice system more generally, including probation and policing, have been subject to dramatic change over recent decades that have raised fundamental questions including the appropriate role of the state and the private sector in criminal justice, the role of public opinion as a driver of criminal justice policy and the underlying policy factors that have led to the present situation. The importance of this policy area is illustrated by the high-profile 'crises' and 'scandals' that regularly erupt in the media, including issues relating to prisoner votes, the release of indeterminately-sentenced prisoners, and the failings of private companies to deliver criminal justice services. This module seeks to cast a spotlight on this troublesome area of law and public policy. It draws upon literature from law, criminology, history, political science and some comparative material to ask where our contemporary penal policy comes from and to speculate on possible futures.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

to cast a spotlight on this troublesome area of law and public policy. It will provide you with a critical understanding of the political and social dynamics that influence criminal justice policy. It will allow you to consider key theoretical debates regarding changes in penal policy, exploring case studies in order to develop a detailed understanding of these issues.

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

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

  • selected key issues in contemporary English Penal Policy;
  • the activities within and beyond the formal processes of government that shape penal policy;
  • the diverse, sociological influences and competing ideologies that shape penal policy;
  • selected theoretical frameworks which seek to explain recent penal policy transformation;
  • some key historical and international comparisons to the contemporary English approach to penal policy.
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • critically evaluate selected key issues in contemporary English Penal Policy;
  • assess a recent example of penal policy in terms of the activities within and beyond the formal processes of government that shaped its development;
  • assess a recent example of penal policy in terms of the diverse, sociological influences and competing ideologies that shaped its development;
  • critically evaluate the capacity of selected theoretical frameworks to adequately explain recent penal policy developments;
  • critically compare selected key issues in contemporary English penal policy to historical and international comparators.
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • critically evaluate others’ arguments;
  • develop and present a written argument with appropriate evidence;
  • effectively research, organise and manage an independent project using available primary and secondary, electronic and paper sources;
  • evaluate the material obtained from primary and secondary, electronic and paper sources;
  • engage in effective policy analysis.

Syllabus

The module will begin by exploring questions fundamental to the module as a whole in an introductory fashion. Such questions include: what is policy? What is ‘penal’ policy? What are the direct sources of penal policy? What indirect sources are there? What are the key influences on the direction of penal policy? Is there an ‘ideal’ way in which penal policy ought to be made in a liberal democracy? In the next few sessions there will be in-depth discussion and analysis of leading scholarly texts that explore prominent developments in penal policy. In the last few weeks of the module a number of case studies of contemporary penal policy making ‘episodes’ will be undertaken (encouraging you to apply the theoretical frameworks encountered during the module).

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

The module will be taught be way of a weekly 2 hour seminar. The main emphasis will be on deep engagement with academic texts and policy materials through class discussion. The module will broaden its coverage to a number of alternative perspectives, look at some historical and international comparators before concluding with sessions which will encourage you to apply the analytical techniques you have learned to recent examples of penal policy development. The emphasis throughout will be on doing rather than simply knowing.

TypeHours
Preparation for scheduled sessions60
Wider reading or practice20
Seminar20
Completion of assessment task50
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Hobbs and Hamerton (2014). The Making of Criminal Justice Policy. 

David Garland (2001). The Culture of Control: Crime and Social Order in Contemporary Society. 

Assessment

Formative

Set exercises - non-exam

Summative

MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (5000 words) 100%

Repeat

MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (5000 words) 100%

Referral

MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (5000 words) 100%

Costs

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:

Books and Stationery equipment

There are no set texts for this module that you are required to purchase. Relevant textbooks and other materials are available in the library in hard copy, and often also available as e-books or other electronic resources.

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 www.calendar.soton.ac.uk.

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