MRes Criminology (Social Statistics) / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Prisons: Exploring the Carceral World to the UK

Course unit fact file
Unit code CRIM72212
Credit rating 15
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


The prison is one of the most fundamental and yet controversial element of any nation’s criminal justice system. Despite academic and first-hand evidence pointing to a generalised failure of incarceration to curtail crime or to reform criminals, imprisonment continues to be viewed as the appropriate and necessary response to a wide range of illegal activities. More puzzling still, despite its economic and social costs, critical questions about the legitimacy of imprisonment are rarely posed. The unit aims to provide a systematic and critical knowledge of the key empirical and policy-oriented discussions about prisons in the UK.

Indicative content: (1) The history of prison; (2) The space & architecture of prison; (3) Understanding prison official statistics; (4) The pains of imprisonment; (5) ‘Extreme’ imprisonment; (6) Contemporary challenges: Overpopulation & Radicalization; (7) Doing Prison Research; (8) Exam surgery and Summary.






The unit aims to provide a systematic and critical knowledge of the key empirical and policy-oriented discussions about prisons in the UK. The course proposes a multidisciplinary approach to deliver weekly research, policy and practice-oriented workshops. Ultimately the aim is to learn how think critically about doing research on prisons and doing research in prisons. As such, the unit proposes an exciting, topical, and still rather unique area of study, which will attract both national and international students.

Learning outcomes

On completion of this unit successful students will be able to: (1) provide a critical account of the main perspectives on prisons; (2) Explain how these can be used to understand contemporary issues in penal policy; (3) use a wide range of prison research tools (4) Develop a critical understanding of the origins and development of prisons, implementation and daily practices of imprisonment, and contemporary challenges.

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching and learning across course units consists of: (1) preparatory work to be completed prior to teaching sessions, including readings, pre-recorded subject material and online activities; (2) a weekly whole-class lecture or workshop; (3) a tutorial; and (4) one-to-one support via subject specific office hours.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

Employability skills: In addition to subject-specific knowledge and understanding, Criminology units foster highly employable skills such as the ability to (i) analyse, critique and (re-)formulate a problem or issue; (ii) rapidly and thoroughly review/rate argument and evidence from targeted bibliographic searches; (iii) plan, structure and present arguments in a variety of written formats and to a strict word limit, (iv) express ideas verbally and organise work effectively in small teams for a variety of written and oral tasks; (v) obtain, manipulate and (re-)present different forms of data; (vi) manage time effectively; (vii) reflect on and improve performance through feedback.

Employability skills

Analytical skills
Oral communication
Problem solving
Written communication

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written assignment (inc essay) 100%

Feedback methods

Formative feedback (both individual and collective) will be given on  tasks and contribution in class. Detailed summative feedback will be given on the submitted essay via Blackboard (Grademark).

Recommended reading

The Howard Journal of Crime and Justice; The British Journal of Criminology; Criminology and Criminal Justice.

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Practical classes & workshops 16
Independent study hours
Independent study 50

Additional notes

Across their course units each semester, full-time students are expected to devote a ‘working week’ of 35-40 hours to study. Accordingly each course unit demands 9-10 hours of study per week consisting of (i) teacher-led activities and sessions, (ii) preparation, required and further reading. Part-time students study the same number of weekly hours per unit but take fewer units per semester. Further guidance will be given regarding study budgeting on this and other course units

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