module specification

LL6054 - Penal Policy (2017/18)

Module specification Module approved to run in 2017/18
Module title Penal Policy
Module level Honours (06)
Credit rating for module 15
School Guildhall School of Business and Law
Total study hours 150
45 hours Scheduled learning & teaching activities
105 hours Guided independent study
Assessment components
Type Weighting Qualifying mark Description
Oral Examination 30%   Presentation
Coursework 70%   Coursework
Running in 2017/18
Period Campus Day Time Module Leader
Spring semester City Thursday Morning

Module summary

This module provides an introduction to theories of punishment from a criminological and sociological standpoint. It also deals with aspects of sentencing practice and procedure and allows students to participate in sentencing simulation exercises and debates. Certain categories of offender (e.g. young offenders, women) are considered in depth. Finally, the issue of penal reform is addressed in the light of the most recent initiatives in the field.

Prior learning requirements


Module aims

The module aims to provide :

• an introduction to theories of punishment and their historical roots with an emphasis upon critical discussion of the conceptual positions that underscore the system.

• an introduction to the range of sentencing options available to the courts and an awareness of the considerations that confront sentencers in making sentencing decisions.

• techniques for the presentation of arguments relating to sentencing

• a discussion of the institutional experiences of different categories of offenders in a range of penal institutions

• a general discussion of the possibilities for reform of the penal system


Theories of punishment: retribution, deserts, deterrence, incapacitation; social histories of punishment: the work of Foucault; sentencing practice: sentencing measures available to the the courts, sentencing procedure; juvenile justice; restorative justice; the imprisonment of women: feminist perspectives; the prison experience; reforming the penal system.Skills – essay and discursive writing.

Learning and teaching

Lectures, workshop discussion, sentencing simulation exercise, debate on capital punishment.
Students will be required to respond to questions linked to weekly reading. Further they will be required to prepare reasoned sentences relating to the simulation exercise. Preparation of skeletal essay plans and presentation for debates.
In delivering the module full use will be made of on-line research using electronic law databases e.g., Westlaw. Students are assisted by a virtual learning environment (VLE) containing handbooks, lecture notes, weblinks, discussion groups, past assessments, study skills materials and assessment criteria.  Blended learning is also a feature of delivery where appropriate. For example, it is actively encouraged as students engage with digital materials, use on-line discussion groups (blogs) and achieve a competent standard of digital literacy during their studies.
Skills related to employability are incorporated as part of the module. The students are required to undertake research skills in law related areas. Fluency in using electronic sources will be enhanced in preparing for assessments. Further, their capacity to present a reasoned argument both orally and in written form is a skill which is integrally related to employment in a managerial or law-related environment.

Learning outcomes

Students completing this module will be capable of:

• demonstrating knowledge and understanding of the ethical foundations of the main concepts of punishment

• thinking critically and communicating written answers to questions involving sentencing decisions by applying a range of appropriate sentencing options to a given set of facts

• application of knowledge and problem solving  through the application of the main considerations facing sentencers to simulated sentencing situations

• analysis, synthesis, critical judgment and evaluation by demonstrating their ability to present arguments relevant to critical debates relating to theories of punishment and reform of the penal system.

Assessment strategy

30% presentation on a sentencing exercise and 70% written coursework on two theoretical aspects of penal policy (one to be based on the sentencing exercise from the presentation).


Ashworth, A, Sentencing and Criminal Justice (Cambridge University Press)
Ashworth, A, A von Hirsch, & J Roberts, Principled Sentencing: Readings on Theory and Policy, (Hart Publishing)
Cavadino, M, & J Dignan, The Penal System: An Introduction (Sage)
Easton, S, & C Piper, Sentencing and Punishment: The Quest for Justice, (Oxford University Press)
Garland, D, Punishment and Modern Society, (Oxford University Press)
Lacey, N, C Wells, & O Quick, Reconstructing Criminal Law, (Cambridge University Press)
Maguire, M, R Morgan, & R Reiner, (eds.) The Oxford Handbook of Criminology, (Oxford University Press)
Newburn, T, Crime and Criminal Justice Policy, (Longman)
Norrie, A, Punishment, Responsibility and Justice: A Relational Critique, (Oxford University Press)
Tonry, M, & R Fraser (eds.) Sentencing and Sanctions in Western Countries, (Oxford University Press)