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Contemporary Issues in Criminal Justice


  • Credit value: 30 credits at Level 7
  • ConvenorsTanya Serisier, Sarah Lamble
  • Tutors: various academics across the Department of Criminology
  • Assessment: a 4000-word essay (100%)

Module description

This module introduces you to a range of contemporary issues and debates within the field of criminal law and criminal justice. It does not pursue a ‘first-to-last encounter’ model of criminal justice studies, nor does it purport to be an exhaustive analysis of criminal justice issues and institutions. In the span of one term any attempt to do so would not satisfy the needs of postgraduate study, where the emphasis is on developing deeper understanding and new skills that will enable you to undertake more rigorous inquiry. For this reason, the course is organised through a set of case studies, with each topic chosen because of its substantive significance to the field and to showcase the world-leading research expertise of Birkbeck staff. Together the seminars examine various aspects of the contemporary criminal justice institutional landscape, policy and practice from a range of theoretical and methodological perspectives.

indicative module Syllabus 

  • Critical Approaches to Contemporary Issues in Criminal Justice Criminal Justice Institutions
  • Postmodern Penality? Neoliberalism, Punishment and Current Trends in Women’s Imprisonment
  • Institutions of Control: the Criminalisation of Homelessness
  • Racialising Crime and Criminalising Race: Policing 'Gangs' in England and Australia
  • The Criminal Courts and Questions of Legitimacy
  • The Cultural Politics of Violence: Thinking Critically About #MeToo
  • Constructions of Victims and Perpetrators
  • Borders of Punishment
  • Drug Laws and Drug Wars

Learning objectives

By the end of this module, you will be able to:

  • identify bodies of literature and key scholars working on a range of criminal justice topics that reflect contemporary issues and developments in criminal justice studies and practice
  • demonstrate an understanding of the key components of a range of theoretical and methodological perspectives and explain their different strengths and weaknesses.