BASS Politics and Criminology / Course details

Year of entry: 2022

Course unit details:
Understanding Punishment

Unit code CRIM20692
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by School of Social Sciences
Available as a free choice unit? No


This course introduces some of the central issues and concepts involved in a critical consideration of the nature and functioning of penal systems. We will explore the main theoretical perspectives and apply them to some contemporary problems in the field.

Indicative content: (1) What is punishment?; (2) The political economy of punishment; (3) Punishment & discipline; (4) Punishment & culture; (5) Punishment & risk; (6) Punishment & money: the fine; (7) The death penalty; (8) The prison; (9) Deterrence; (10) Course overview and assessment preparation.


None, though prior knowledge of theoretical approaches to explaining crime and deviance would be an advantage.


The unit aims to provide a thorough understanding of the main theoretical perspectives on punishment and their application to current issues in penal policy.

Learning outcomes

On completion of this unit successful students will be able to: (1) provide a critical account of the main theoretical perspectives on punishment; (2) explain how these can be used to understand contemporary issues in penal policy; (3) accurately summarise and evaluate complex material; (4) apply theoretical ideas to address practical/policy problems.

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching in academic year 21/22 will be flexible and allow us to adapt to changing conditions, however, the common intention across units is to provide a blended offer of the best in online and on-campus teaching that includes: (1) a subject hour used for a range of exercises and activities; (2) high quality learning materials; (3) a tutorial; (4) 1:1 support via a subject-specific contact hour.

Employability skills

(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.

Assessment methods

This unit is summatively assessed by a 3000-word essay worth 100% of the overall mark.

Feedback methods

Formative feedback (both individual and collective) will be given on (1) on tasks and contribution in class, (2) developing essay plans. Detailed summative feedback will be given on the submitted essay via Blackboard (Grademark).

Recommended reading

Garland, D. (1990) Punishment & Modern Society. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 13
Independent study hours
Independent study 40

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Marion Vannier Unit coordinator

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 12-13 hours of study per week consisting of (i) timetabled teacher-led hours, (ii) preparation, required and further reading.

Restricted to: LLB (Law with Criminology) if not choosing LAWS20452 or LAWS20412 and BA (Criminology) for which this subject is compulsory. LLB (Law), BA/LLB (Law with Politics), BA (Econ) and BA Social Sciences (BASS).
Other students from the Faculty of Humanities as approved by the Course Unit Director.

This course  is available to incoming study abroad students university wide.

Pre-requisites: None.

Please see Law School timetable

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