The University of Southampton

LAWS3135 Crime and Punishment: Issues and Perspectives

Module Overview

The ‘Crime and Punishment: Issues and Perspectives’ module explores the nature of crime as a legal, political and social phenomenon: how crime has been constructed in the history of western society and the ways in which society has responded to criminal behavior. This module offers an introduction to the historical study of crime and highlights both changes in criminal behavior and the different ways that society has sought to deter, punish, and rehabilitate offenders. Topics include historical patterns of violence, the role and organization of the police and the media in relation to understanding and measuring crime, and the evolution of punishment in theory and practice. The module also emphasizes differences in crime and punishment by race, gender, and age. A study of selected works from some of the field’s most important theorists will frame these discussions.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

• encourage a critical understanding of major theories of crime and crime control; • provide an opportunity to explore some of the broader theoretical issues concerning punishment and the relationship between punishment and society; in particular, issues such as race, gender and the death penalty; • examine a range of issues relevant to restorative justice programmes, as well as some of the principal critiques of restorative justice and the challenges facing attempts to use restorative justice measures to deal with serious acts of individual and communal violence.

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

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

  • the origins and scope of criminological argument
  • the major questions and issues about crime and punishment that have shaped modern criminology
  • the use of explanation and theory in understanding crime and punishment
  • the role of the police and the media
  • the leading sociological theories concerning punishment
  • particular sanctions and historical trends of punishment within different societies
  • the principles underpinning the restorative justice paradigm and the relationship between reintegrative shaming and restorative justice.
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • assess critically the fundamental claims and concepts of key theoretical perspectives
  • evaluate the potential of modern criminological theory to explain developments in crime and social control
  • analyse the strengths and weaknesses of the leading sociological theories of punishment
  • evaluate assumptions about the different roles of offender, victim, community and state in the context of crime and responses to crime
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • locate and analyse relevant primary and secondary resources, together with relevant historical, philosophical and political materials
  • identify and summarise different types and forms of argument
  • Construct, defend and communicate an argument in writing
  • Conduct a piece of independent research in a specific area under pressure of time
  • think critically and contribute to informed debate on a wide variety of current and problematic legal, philosophical, political and social issues


The subject areas covered during the module include: • Crime and Deviance: What is a Crime? • Theories of Crime and Crime Control • The Role of the Police and the Media • Measuring Crime • Responses to Crime: Punishment and the Prison • Capital Punishment • Issues and Challenges: Gender, Race and Age • Punishment, Symbols and Censure • Alternative Approaches: Restorative Justice • Essay Writing & Research

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include Seminars/Lectures (Weekly) The module is taught by a series of weekly two-hour seminars/lectures, which provide you with an overview of each substantive topic, highlighting key issues. The overriding emphasis is on the development of critical reflection and analysis through consideration of major themes and topics. The seminar series is supported with a range of ‘handouts’ (made available electronically via ‘Blackboard’), which outline critical issues, required reading and questions and guidance for further study. You are also encouraged to explore a wide range of legal and non-legal resources as a starting point for your own research from a variety of different legal, moral, political and social perspectives. 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 seminars and oral contributions to class discussion. • Participating in class discussion (including small group work).

Preparation for scheduled sessions68
Wider reading or practice12
Completion of assessment task50
Total study time150





MethodPercentage contribution
Assignment  (5000 words) 100%


MethodPercentage contribution
Assignment  (5000 words) 100%


MethodPercentage contribution
Assignment  (5000 words) 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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