CRI-10015 - Punishment: Beyond the popular imagination
Coordinator: Mary Corcoran Room: CBB1.035 Tel: +44 1782 7 33104
Lecture Time: See Timetable...
Level: Level 4
Credits: 15
Study Hours: 150
School Office:

Programme/Approved Electives for 2023/24


Available as a Free Standing Elective





Barred Combinations


Description for 2023/24

This module introduces students to a range of debates about the nature of punishment and its representation in academic research and popular culture. It explores criminological and historical reasons why societies use punishment and why they adopt or change particular forms of punishment. It examines key legal and social questions relating to how states justify and regulate the use of punishment, and the challenges and criticisms faced by contemporary punitive systems.

1) To increase students knowledge and understanding of a range of debates about the nature of punishment and its representation in popular culture
2) To develop students appreciation of the variety, form and distribution of criminal sanctions in different cultures and different historical periods, with a critical focus on the effects of colonialism on historical and contemporary modes of punishment
3) To develop students understanding of the changing nature and scope of punishment
4) To enable students to appreciate the importance of comparative analysis in investigating punishment

Talis Aspire Reading List
Any reading lists will be provided by the start of the course.

Intended Learning Outcomes

Recognise and describe sociological perspectives on punishment: 1
Recognise and illustrate the impact of processes of social change on responses to crime: 1
Recognise the importance of comparative analysis in investigating punishment: 1
Identify different representations of punishment in the media and public discourse: 1
Make use of research evidence, other data and some basic criminological theories in developing arguments and making judgements about punishment issues: 1
Recognise and describe the relationships between punishment and social divisions based on age, gender, class and ethnicity, and the effects of colonial and decolonial processes on punitive practices: 1

Study hours

11 hour lectures
11 hour seminars
15 hours of directed preparation for lectures and seminars via engagement with online asynchronous activities and information specific to each learning week.
8 hours of completion of essay.
105 hours independent study (including additional self directed preparatory reading and related preparation for lectures and seminars as well as preparation, planning and additional reading for summative online tasks)

School Rules

Students must have taken one of the core Criminology modules.

Description of Module Assessment

1: Essay weighted 100%
Essay 1600 words long.
An essay of 1600 words in length, comprising 4 obligatory sections, each section weighted at 25% of the total mark. Students will be asked to select a mode of punishment from one of the case studies which they will encounter in their weekly lectures/tutorial. They will be asked to reflect and answer the following. 1. What is the history or origins of this punishment? Is this punishment still in use today? (400 words) 2. What penal justifications (theories) can be used to support the use of this punishment - you may identify what you think is the MAIN penal justification OR you can identify up to 3 justifications (400 words) 3. What arguments may be used against the use of this punishment? You may refer to controversies or objections to this punishment; whether this type of punishment has been discontinued, etc (400 words) 4. Identify a source or text from the research literature which writes about this type of punishment. Briefly summarise the argument of the source (400 words).