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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Law : Law

Postgraduate Course: Penal Politics (LAWS11215)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Law CollegeCollege of Humanities and Social Science
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThe overarching aim of the course is to study, understand and analyse the politics of punishment and criminal justice with a view to developing explanations for recent directions in penal policy. The course offers you the opportunity to study influences on criminal justice policy and to apply this knowledge in a number of focused case studies building on a strong penological tradition at the University of Edinburgh School of Law.

Course description Indicative content
Introduction - politics and the penal realm
Electoral politics and penality
Populism and penality
Scientific expertise, evidence and penal policy
Professional expertice, judgement and sentencing
Supra-national influences on penal policy
CASE 1: Capital punishment in the US
CASE 2: Long term imprisonment in Europe
CASE 3: Prisoners¿ voting rights
Review and prognosis

Case studies can change from year to year to account for contemporary penal developments.

Seminars are delivered through structured discussions chaired by the course convenor or other course staff

Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
Pre-requisitesSome background in criminology, history, law or political science/policy studies/social policy is helpful.
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. A firm knowledge of the literature crossing criminology, political sociology and political science providing a broad understanding of how penal policy and practice is shaped
  2. The capacity to derive an analytical framework from literature and to apply it to provide a clear description and explanation or evaluation of penal policy
  3. The ability to present a short position paper in the field of penal politics in one of a number of styles (policy analysis, advocacy article, documentary script)
  4. The ability to formulate and present a coherent and evidenced argument in a limited written format
  5. The ability to give a short descriptive account of an area of study setting out the foundations for an extended group discussion
Reading List
* Garland, D. (1990) Frameworks of inquiry in the sociology of punishment. British Journal of Sociology 41(1): 1-15.
* Wacquant, L. (2008) Ordering insecurity: social polarization and the punitive upsurge. Radical Philosophy Review 11(1): 9-27.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Generic cognitive skills
Penal politics sits at the meeting point of criminology, law, political science and political sociology. Students develop the ability to operate across disciplinary boundaries, building up analytic and explanatory frameworks and applying these to contemporary problems of penal policy. Seminars based on a directed and structured discussion help students develop explanatory accounts of penal phenomenon, and provide a model for their own individual assessed work. Throughout, students are encouraged to think about the complex interweaving of multiple (and sometimes contradictory) causal and contextual factors.

Communication skills
Students are expected to communicate appropriately with peers and experts in seminars which are predominantly based around group discussions, and later in the semester, student presentations. High level communication skills are developed through the use of two different formats of writing in the final assessment.

Autonomy, accountability and working with others
Students develop autonomy through preparation for seminars and assessments where, beyond a core minimum, they are expected to direct their own reading, and define their approach to questions, selection of cases and examples. Group work in preparing for seminar presentations encourages the development of peer working, including the allocation and completion of tasks contributing to a group project.
Course organiserMs Sarah Macqueen
Tel: (0131 6)50 2136
Course secretaryMiss Maree Hardie
Tel: (0131 6)50 9588
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