Module code: SOC3055

Module Overview

This module will focus specifically on the use of prisons as a form of punishment in society. This will include an examination of the growing prison crisis, the rise of supermax prisons and the privatisation of prisons. It will also consider how particular social groups experience prison, and the harms of imprisonment for individuals.

Module provider


Module Leader

ADAMS Maria (Sociology)

Number of Credits: 15

ECTS Credits: 7.5

Framework: FHEQ Level 6

Module cap (Maximum number of students): N/A

Overall student workload

Independent Learning Hours: 106

Lecture Hours: 11

Seminar Hours: 11

Guided Learning: 11

Captured Content: 11

Module Availability

Semester 1

Prerequisites / Co-requisites


Module content

Indicative content includes:

  • The prisons crisis

  •  Life on the ‘inside’

  •  Prison Privatisation

  • Supermax prisons

  • Global trends in imprisonment

  • Alternatives to prison

Assessment pattern

Assessment type Unit of assessment Weighting
Coursework ESSAY 60

Alternative Assessment


Assessment Strategy

Their understanding of the key developments in penology relating to the use of prisons and the experiences of prisoners.

The module is assessed with a 2000-word extended essay and a 1000-word commentary on a documentary/film. Both assessments will require students to demonstrate their understanding about the topics covered and to apply a critical approach to respond to some of the complexities about issues related to prisons.


Thus, the summative assessment for this module consists of:

  • A 2000-word extended essay (60%)- students engage with one of the topics taught in the first six weeks of the module. They will learn core contemporary issues centred around these topics and will need to engage in the existing academic literature to complete this.  

  • A 1000-word commentary on a documentary/film (40%)- students will develop creative written skills to complete this. They will need to engage with some form of media genre like a documentary, film or tv series. In the commentary, they will develop writing skills in line with what they have learnt from the module to provide a critical discussion on whether these genres can be a true depiction of prison life.

Formative assessment and feedback

Students are asked to prepare for tutorials each week. These include reading materials and answering questions about them.

Students also can produce a formative essay plan prior to submission of the mid-term essay and to discuss this plan with the lecturer. Classroom time is devoted to discussion and feedback concerning essay and exam techniques.

Module aims

  • To explore the use of prison in Western societies
  • To consider specific issues relating to the growth of imprisonment, including the crisis of containment and the increasing use of privatisation
  • To look at recent alternatives to imprisonment, and their impact on the prison population

Learning outcomes

Attributes Developed
001 Have a critical awareness of the role of prison in modern societies, and the implications of the rising prison population CPT
002 Be familiar with the issues facing prisoners inside and outside prison including the communities CPT
003 Be able to link current prison policy to the theoretical justifications for punishment outlined by penologists CPT
004 To understand the critical issues that are focused in Western Societies including the UK, USA and European countries KC

Attributes Developed

C - Cognitive/analytical

K - Subject knowledge

T - Transferable skills

P - Professional/Practical skills

Methods of Teaching / Learning

The learning and teaching strategy is designed to:

Provide students with a detailed understanding of the uses and abuses of prisons in society, as well as the experiences of prisoners. By the end of the module students will be expert ‘penologists’ able to engage with debates on the experience of prisoners and the complex political and sociological arguments around the use of prisons. The mix of lectures and discussion provides a flexible framework for engaging with the various forms and uses of prisons throughout society, exposing students to key literature whilst allowing a forum for more in depth discussion.


The learning and teaching methods include lectures and seminars.

Indicated Lecture Hours (which may also include seminars, tutorials, workshops and other contact time) are approximate and may include in-class tests where one or more of these are an assessment on the module. In-class tests are scheduled/organised separately to taught content and will be published on to student personal timetables, where they apply to taken modules, as soon as they are finalised by central administration. This will usually be after the initial publication of the teaching timetable for the relevant semester.

Reading list
Upon accessing the reading list, please search for the module using the module code: SOC3055

Other information

The Department of Sociology is committed to developing graduates with strengths in Employability, Digital Capabilities, Global and Cultural Capabilities, Sustainability, and Resourcefulness and Resilience. This module is designed to allow students to develop knowledge, skills, and capabilities in the following areas:


Global and cultural capabilities: Students will speak about the range of perspectives from international lens on the experiences of prisoners and working in prisons. The students will develop a critical understanding about the political and economic spheres of countries and how this influences the prison system. In this, students will understand the demographic trends in prisons and the affect this has on societal inequalities from an international lens.


Employability: The assessment strategy for the module is designed to engage in theoretical and contemporary debates which will contribute to their career development.  Many of the students will also develop written and verbal communication skills through the course content. They will have opportunities to develop skills in presentations, group work and to critically engage in issues that influence political and parliamentary affairs about the prison system.


Resourcefulness and resilience: Throughout the semester, students will undertake a serious of assessment and seminar tasks that will help enhance their resourcefulness and resilience. With this, students will be required to independently plan, research and write assessments, and build their confidence and engagement through participation in seminar discussions and activities, thus contributing to a supportive learning community.

Programmes this module appears in

Programme Semester Classification Qualifying conditions
Criminology BSc (Hons) 1 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
Criminology and Sociology BSc (Hons) 1 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module

Please note that the information detailed within this record is accurate at the time of publishing and may be subject to change. This record contains information for the most up to date version of the programme / module for the 2024/5 academic year.