Skip to main content

Imprisonment and Justice


  • Credit value: 15 credits at Level 5

Module description

Punishment through imprisonment arguably serves as the lynchpin of modern western criminal justice systems. Despite the limitations of imprisonment as a mechanism for 'crime control' and the high social and economic costs of confinement, prisons remain a core feature within 'advanced liberal democracies'. As prison populations in England, Wales and elsewhere continue to grow at unprecedented levels, the role of penalty continues to expand, raising key questions about the relationship between imprisonment, law, democracy and justice.

This module provides you with a critical introduction to the meaning, purpose and limits of imprisonment within western legal systems. Situating the modern prison within its broader social, historical, political and economic context, the module will examine contemporary trends, theories and debates on penal policy in Britain and other liberal democracies.

It will explore key social and legal issues arising from imprisonment by:

  • assessing the theoretical, philosophical and empirical justifications for imprisonment
  • examining key legal policy debates
  • evaluating challenges of penal reform
  • exploring alternatives.