The University of Southampton

LAWS3140 Politics of Crime Control

Module Overview

What is criminal justice policy and how is it made? What does it mean to analyse ‘politically’ the activity of criminal justice policymakers? What does it mean to describe the judiciary as ‘political actors’? These are some of the questions that are central to ‘Politics of Crime Control’. This module invites you to consider the political processes which impact upon the development of criminal law and criminal justice policy. The module will provide you with an introduction to key concepts and debates within political analysis and policy-making studies. With this grounding in place, the module will explore the relationship between politics and criminal justice policy by reference to important and topical cases studies, which may include: • the politics of the law-making process; • the relationship between political ideologies and criminal justice policy; • the politics of the judiciary. This module will conclude by considering ways in which criminal justice policymaking might be improved. Seminar discussion will give you the opportunity to present arguments orally. You will also have the chance to communicate your arguments to a group of peers and defend your position under challenge. No prior study of politics is required. Teaching will be informed by published and ongoing research being produced by relevant academic staff in the Law School.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

Aims • to provide a critical understanding of key concepts in political science and policymaking studies; • to utilize these concepts to explore the national political context in which criminal justice policy operates; • to explore topical and relevant case studies and thereby to shed light on criminal justice policy development as a political process; • to encourage the consideration of different positions as regards the appropriate relationship between politics and criminal justice policy.

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

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

  • key concepts in political science, policymaking studies and their relevance to the politics of crime control;
  • the sources of criminal justice policy;
  • the broader significance of relevant case studies such as ‘policymaking processes and penal reform’ and ‘the politics of the judiciary’.
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • construct arguments clearly and coherently in writing;
  • critically evaluate the utility of political science and policymaking concepts;
  • describe and critically assess the relationship between political processes and criminal justice policy;
  • conduct self-directed research leading to an essay that demonstrates an appreciation of academic integrity;
  • locate and analyse relevant legal, political and other primary and secondary source materials.
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • distinguish relevant from irrelevant materials;
  • critically evaluate others’ arguments;
  • manage your time effectively.


The precise content of the module will be influenced by relevant staff’s ongoing research in relevant areas and topical developments of the day. The following is an indicative list of module content: • Key concepts in political science – power, structure, agency and ideas; • Key concepts in policymaking – policy windows, agenda-setting, and the problem/political/policy streams; • Political ideologies and criminal justice policy; • The politics of the law-making process; • Pressure groups and the policymaking process; • The politics of the judiciary; • How to improve the politics of crime control?

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

The module will be taught through weekly 2-hour seminars. Your participation is central to the module. You will be encouraged to actively engage with relevant concepts and issues by way of discussion groups, presentations, debates and case studies. You will also be encouraged to develop your own perspectives on module topics and will be provided with opportunities to discuss, defend and refine your position through the semester. Learning activities include directed reading; independent research; preparing for and writing formative coursework; reflection on that process; preparing for and writing summative coursework; preparation and delivery of oral presentations; class discussion.

Completion of assessment task50
Preparation for scheduled sessions70
Wider reading or practice10
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Kingdon (2011). Agendas, Alternatives and Public Policy. 

Bevir and Rhodes (2003). Interpreting British Governance. 

Zander (2004). The Law-making Process. 

Lacey (2008). The Prisoners’ Dilemma. 

Barton and Johns (2013). The Policy-making Process in the Criminal Justice System. 

Loader and Sparks (2012). Public Criminology?. 

Annison (2015). Dangerous Politics. 

Hay (2002). Political Analysis. 

Griffith (1997). The Politics of the Judiciary. 



Formative Assessment


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (5000 words) 100%


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (5000 words) 100%


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (5000 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. There is no set text – the module draws on a range of relevant literature – and the reading lists are drawn from materials already available in or through the University Library including 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

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