The Sociology of Imprisonment - SO711

Location Term Level Credits (ECTS) Current Convenor 2018-19
Canterbury Spring
View Timetable
6 15 (7.5) PROF RA Matthews




Cannot be taken with LW544



This course will introduce students to the sociological analysis of prisons and penal policy. The module is organised around the general theme of a discussion of current debates in the criminology and sociology drawing on both theoretical and empirical research. More specific themes will include:
- The historical development of imprisonment
- The challenge maintaining order and control in prisons.
- An investigation of the growing ‘crisis’ of imprisonment
- An examination of the reasons for the growth of imprisonment in both the UK and America
- An examination of development of alternatives to custody
- The role and impact of private prisons
- The imprisonment of women and ethnic minority groups.
- A discussion on the future of imprisonment


This module appears in:

Contact hours

22 hours - 11 hours of lectures and seminars each week.

Method of assessment

100% coursework (one essay 5000 words)

Indicative reading

Bottoms, A. Rex, s. and Robinson, G. (2004) Alternatives to Prison (Willan)
Carlen, P. and Worrall, A. (2004) Analysing Women’s Imprisonment (Willan)
Cullen, F. and Gilbert, K. (1982) Reaffirming Rehabilitation (Anderson Publishing)
Currie, E. (1998) Crime and Punishment in America (Metropolitan Books)
Foucault, M. (1977) Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison (Allen Lane)
Goffman, E. (1961) Asylums: Essays on the Social Situation of Mental Patients and Other Inmates. (Pelican)
Matthews, R. (2009) Doing Time: An Introduction to the Sociology of Imprisonment (Palgrave/Macmillan)
Matthews, R. (2001) Imprisonment (Ashgate)
Parenti, C. (1999) Lockdown America: Police and Prisons in the Age of Crisis
Rusche, G. and Kirchheimer, O. (2003) Punishment and Social Structure (Transaction Publishers)
Tonry, M. (2004) The Future of Imprisonment (Oxford University Press)

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

See the library reading list for this module (Medway)

Learning outcomes

Have an understanding of recent developments and contemporary debates on imprisonment and penal policy
Be able to apply different sociological theories to the analysis of key issues in this field
Be able to evaluate and criticise research evidence, engaging directly with research materials and official data

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