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Punishment, Justice and Control

Have you ever thought why we think punishment is the right response to crime and why we think it helps us achieve justice?

We may have these ideas connecting crime and justice through punishment because we have been exposed to them via news stories, television series, books or films, or may have been influenced by political and other public figures. In many cases our own personal experiences, feelings and beliefs influence our perspectives on criminals and the criminal justice system, and issues of fairness, inequality, justice and injustice, criminal responsibility and punishment are themes we have all thought about and discussed at some point.

This module looks at the relationship between the idea and practice of punishment and it explores key concepts in criminology and criminal justice in order to examine what punishment is, whether it works, how, and what consequences it has for those who experience it and for societies.

During lectures and seminars, we will cover a wide range of questions, including: what is the purpose of punishment and how has punishment been justified? Why do we punish? Does the public expect and desire tougher punishments? Who do we punish and what is the relationship between inequality, discrimination and criminalisation? What does it feel like to be punished and what are the effects of imprisonment? Why has the prison become such a prominent institution in modern societies, and why do the US and England and Wales have such large prison populations? What is the prison industrial complex and how has prison privatisation affected the delivery of punishment? Should we be talking about reforming prisons, or about expanding alternative punishments? Should we be discussing the possibilities of abolishing prisons?

This is a timely module covering a range of topical issues, particularly as prison populations in England, the US and elsewhere remain unprecedentedly high. As technologies and practices that focus on the isolation, regulation and control of populations extend well beyond the physical boundaries of prison walls, and are mostly affecting those who are disadvantaged in society, the stakes of these debates are high.


Module Director

Anastasia Chamberlen