BASS Social Anthropology and Philosophy / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Understanding Punishment

Course unit fact file
Unit code CRIM20692
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


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/some philosophical explanations?; (2) The social function of punishment (i): social structure; (3) The social function of punishment (ii): discipline; (4) The social function of punishment (iii): culture; (5) The social function of punishment (iv): risk & probation; (6) How do we punish?: the fine; (7) How do we punish? Restorative Justice; (8) How do we punish: The prison; (9) How do we punish: life imprisonment and the death penalty; (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 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.

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

Coursework (90)% and online question/quizzes (10%)

Feedback methods

Formative feedback (both individual and collective) will be given  (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 20
Tutorials 10
Independent study hours
Independent study 70

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Fiamma Terenghi Unit coordinator

Additional notes

Across their course units each semester, full-time students are expected to devote a ‘working week’ of around 30-35 hours to study. Accordingly each course unit demands around 10-11 hours of study per week consisting of (i) 3 timetabled teacher-led hours, (ii) 7-8 independent study hours devoted to preparation, required and further reading, and note taking.

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

Return to course details