Module details for Penal Institutions


This module provides knowledge and understanding of the prison system, the experience of imprisonment and penal policy and practice in the UK and Internationally.


To provide the student with the opportunity to explore developments in penal policy and practice, the lived experience of imprisonment and considers alternatives to imprisonment.It will also consider some of the issues surrounding detention and incarceration for foreign nationals.

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this module the student should be able to:

1.  Collaborate with other students in discussion and presentation to critically assess and evaluate penal policy in modern British society.

2.  Critically assess the effect of imprisonment as a form of punishment on prisoners and their families through detailed enquiry based learning on the challenges that confront them.

3.  Identify and assess the effectiveness of alternatives to custody through confidently using and evaluating statistical evidence on alternative disposals.

4.  Critically examine the complex nature of attitudes to imprisonment and challenge thinking on penal abolition and punitive discourses.

5.  Critically examine the growing concerns relating to the detention of foreign nationals in the UK

Indicative Content

1 Contemporary developments in Penal Theory, Policy & Practice

Penal institutions in contemporary society.The crises of legitimacy in penal institutions. Reorganisation and reform. Privatisation of the prison system.

2 Prison Life The Reality

'Doing time' the actuality of prison life, the 'total institution'? Strategies for survival, regime activities, 'banged up' prisoners, prison staff and civilian staff. Dealing with social exclusion. The diversity of the prison population. Stratification and power within prisons.

3 Alternatives to Imprisonment; The Way Forward?

Reducing risk or protecting the public? Reducing fear of crime? Human or humane containment and warehousing. Therapeutic prisons. Electronic tagging, community service orders, mediation/reparation.

4 Attitudes to imprisonment

Why do we have prisons? Why are they at the centre of penal policy? Are they culturally 'acceptable'? Abolitionism

5 Foreign Nationals

detention centres; foreign national prisoners and race relations in prisons; are immigration detention centres new types of penal establishments; critical issues surrounding foreign national prisoners in the UK

Teaching and Learning Work Loads

Teaching and Learning Method Hours
Lecture 20
Tutorial/Seminar 10
Practical Activity 1
Assessment 30
Independent 140
Total 201

Guidance notes

SCQF Level - The Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework provides an indication of the complexity of award qualifications and associated learning and operates on an ascending numeric scale from Levels 1-12 with SCQF Level 10 equating to a Scottish undergraduate Honours degree.

Credit Value – The total value of SCQF credits for the module. 20 credits are the equivalent of 10 ECTS credits. A full-time student should normally register for 60 SCQF credits per semester.


We make every effort to ensure that the information on our website is accurate but it is possible that some changes may occur prior to the academic year of entry. The modules listed in this catalogue are offered subject to availability during academic year 2021/22 , and may be subject to change for future years.