Prisons and Penal Policy - SOCI9400

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Module delivery information

This module is not currently running in 2024 to 2025.


This module will examine the emergence and development of the modern prison in the light of the major social and economic changes that have taken place over the last two hundred years. It will examine the changing functions of the prison over that period and will look at the development of community based sanctions and alternatives to custody. It will then examine the reasons for the growth of imprisonment in the post war period and in particular its rapid increase on both sides of the Atlantic over the past two decades. It will examine the issues of gender and race in relation to prisons and penal policy and examine the key debates concerning the changing composition of the prison population. It will then go on to look at penal reform and in particular the impact of privatisation on the prison system.


Contact hours

Total contact hours: 22
Private study hours: 178
Total study hours: 200


MA in Criminology
MA in Sociology

Method of assessment

Main assessment methods

Coursework -Essay (5,000 words) - 100%

Reassessment methods

100% coursework

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
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: Verso
Rusche, G. and Kirchheimer, O. (2003) Punishment and Social Structure: Transaction
Tonry, M. (2004) The Future of Imprisonment: 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 Critically evaluate the development and impact of the modern prison
8.2 Display a comprehensive understanding of the links between imprisonment and economic, social and cultural contexts
8.3 Offer detailed and critical analysis of current policy issues in the field of prisons and penal policy
8.4 Make sophisticated links between important debates in the field of imprisonment and their theoretical underpinnings
8.5 Discuss developments of imprisonment within an informed global framework.

The intended generic learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

9.1 Demonstrate sophisticated skills in written presentation and debate, and in utilization of research and empirical data
9.2 Critically synthesise the theoretical contribution of different schools and disciplines of enquiry
9.3 Gather appropriate library and web-based resources for postgraduate study; make critical judgments about their merits and use the
available evidence to construct an argument.


  1. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  2. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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