Prisons and Society - SOCI7110

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Module delivery information

Location Term Level1 Credits (ECTS)2 Current Convenor3 2024 to 2025
Autumn Term 6 15 (7.5) Thomas Akoensi checkmark-circle


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 covered will include:

- The historical development of imprisonment
- An investigation of the growing 'crisis' of imprisonment
- An examination of the reasons for the growth of imprisonment in both the UK and America
- The imprisonment of women and ethnic minority groups.
- An exploration of issues impacting on the experience of imprisonment
- A discussion on the future of imprisonment


Contact hours

Contact hours: 22
Private study hours: 128
Total study hours: 150


Criminology BA
Criminology and Sociology BA,
Criminology and Law BA
Criminology and Social Policy BA
Criminology and Cultural Studies BA
Sociology BA
Optional module for the above and for other SSPSSR bachelor degree courses

Method of assessment

Main assessment methods
Coursework - short answer questions15%
Coursework - essay (3000 words) – 85% **

** Students must pass this element to pass the module.

Reassessment methods
100% coursework

Indicative reading

Bottoms, A. Rex, s. and Robinson, G., 2004, Alternatives to Prison, Cullompton, Willan.
Carlen, P. and Worrall, A., 2004, Analysing Women's Imprisonment, Cullompton, Willan.
Cullen, F., 2012, Reaffirming Rehabilitation, Oxford, Elsvier Science Publishing
Currie, E., 2013, Crime and Punishment in America, New York, Picador Books Foucault, M., 11991, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, London, Penguin
Goffman, E., 2007, Asylums: Essays on the Social Situation of Mental Patients and Other Inmates. , London, Aldine Transaction
Matthews, R., 2009, Doing Time: An Introduction to the Sociology of Imprisonment, Basingstoke, Palgrave/Macmillan
Matthews, R., 1999, Imprisonment, Brookfield, Ashgate
Parenti, C., 1999, Lockdown America: Police and Prisons in the Age of Crisis, London, Verso
Rusche, G. and Kirchheimer, O., 2003, Punishment and Social Structure, New Brunswick, Transaction Publishers
Tonry, M., 2004, The Future of Imprisonment, Oxford, Oxford University Press

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

The intended subject specific learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:
8.1 Demonstrate a critical understanding of recent developments and contemporary debates on imprisonment and penal policy
8.2 Apply different sociological theories to the critical analysis of key issues in the field of imprisonment and penal policy
8.3 Critically evaluate research evidence regarding the sociology of imprisonment, engaging directly with research materials and official data

The intended generic learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:
9.1 Demonstrate skills in presentation and debate including being able to effectively articulate complex information and concepts
9.2 Utilise research data, including critically analysing data and policy documents
9.3 Demonstrate sociological analytical skills, including interrogating abstract concepts, assumptions, and arguments regarding society


  1. Credit level 6. Higher level module usually taken in Stage 3 of an undergraduate degree.
  2. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  3. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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