LW7130 - Theories of Punishment

What will I learn on this module?

Sentencing is a routine part of the criminal process when a defendant is convicted, yet how and why we should punish offenders remain deeply contested questions. This module introduces you to the main theories of punishment, exploring retributive and consequentialist justifications for punishment, as well as theories which combine elements of both. You will consider moral responsibility and explore how debates about free will and determinism, along with recent developments in neuroscience, impact on theorising about punishment. You will also learn about the impact of technology on punishment, such as the use of algorithms in calculating risk of reoffending at the sentencing stage. You will then explore ethical issues relating to two widely used, yet controversial, forms of punishment: imprisonment and capital punishment. The latter part of the module will explore alternative approaches to punishment, such as restorative justice and welfare-based interventions. Arguments for the abolition of punishment will also be considered.

Outline of seminar topics:
1. Retributive punishment
2. Consequentialist punishment
3. Mixed theories of punishment
4. Moral responsibility and punishment: the free will debate
5. Technology and punishment
6. The ethics of imprisonment
7. The ethics of capital punishment
8. Alternative approaches (1): restorative justice
9. Alternative approaches (2): child welfare; mental health treatment.
10. Arguments for abolition

How will I learn on this module?

You will receive a mixture of lectures and workshops augmented with tutor-guided and student-independent learning. The tutors will use case-law, legislation and academic writing to give context to core principles. You will then be learning through a series of traditional taught lectures to cover theoretical / procedural aspects of the curriculum, supplemented with workshop sessions where you will become a more active learner, putting concepts into context by making connections between theory and practice of punishment. Additional learning strategies utilised throughout the module include practical and online exercises. There will be directed independent learning to go beyond the lecture content. The module eLearning Portal (eLP) site contains a module handbook outlining the content of the module. Lecture slides, digital lecture recordings and workshop exercises will also be made available on the eLP site. Formative feedback will be provided on knowledge and understanding of module content as well as a number of opportunities to engage with the method of assessment used in the module.

How will I be supported academically on this module?

The staff who teach on this module have both academic and practitioner experience in this area. As such, you will receive bespoke academic support to stimulate your thinking around this subject. All lectures will be recorded and made available to you to aid in learning and understanding. You will be encouraged to use this resource to develop your appreciation of the interrelated nature of the disparate areas of law studied as part of the module. The module will make use of the eLearning site (Blackboard Ultra), where lecture materials, podcasts, recordings, and other learning support materials will be made available. The module site will also direct you to supplementary resources which you are encouraged to explore in addition to the material covered in lectures and workshops. The module will make use of an online reading list. The reading list will provide you with links to key texts and information on their availability in the university library. You will also be supported through active participation and discussion during classroom sessions. All lecture and workshop material will be available on the eLP, supplemented with guidance on further reading relevant to the subjects. Assessment feedback will also be provided to allow you to understand how you performed and how you can build on this performance in subsequent assessments within the programme.

What will I be expected to read on this module?

All modules at Northumbria include a range of reading materials that students are expected to engage with. The reading list for this module can be found at: http://readinglists.northumbria.ac.uk
(Reading List service online guide for academic staff this containing contact details for the Reading List team – http://library.northumbria.ac.uk/readinglists)

What will I be expected to achieve?

Knowledge & Understanding:
By the end of the module you should be able to:
• critically evaluate theories of punishment in common law jurisdictions;
• formulate independent judgments as to how sentencing relates to theories of punishment.

Intellectual / Professional skills & abilities:
By the end of the module you should be able to:
• Communicate your judgments and critical appraisals of the principles and theories of punishment.

Personal Values Attributes (Global / Cultural awareness, Ethics, Curiosity) (PVA):

By the end of the module you should have developed the ability to:
• Critique the different approaches to sentencing both nationally and globally.

• Evaluate and provide critical judgments in respect of the key principles of punishment within both a theoretical and broader cultural context.

How will I be assessed?

Formative assessment
There will be practical exercises during workshops, covering different skills in the module, giving you opportunity to practice ahead of the final presentation and essay.

Summative assessment
The module will be assessed by way of 3000 words essay on theories of punishment.

Assessment Criteria and Grade-Related Criteria will be made available to you to support you in completing assessments. Grade-Related Descriptors are descriptions of the level of skills, knowledge and/or attributes that you need to demonstrate in order achieve a certain grade or mark in an assessment, providing a mechanism by which the quality of an assessment can be measured and placed within the overall set of marks.

Pre-requisite(s)

NA

Co-requisite(s)

NA

Module abstract

Sentencing is a routine part of the criminal process when a defendant is convicted, yet how and why we should punish offenders remain deeply contested questions. This module introduces you to the main theories of punishment, exploring retributive and consequentialist justifications for punishment, as well as theories which combine elements of both. You will consider moral responsibility and explore how debates about free will and determinism, along with recent developments in neuroscience, impact on theorising about punishment. You will also learn about the impact of technology on punishment, such as the use of algorithms in calculating risk of reoffending at the sentencing stage. You will then explore ethical issues relating to two widely used, yet controversial, forms of punishment: imprisonment and capital punishment. The latter part of the module will explore alternative approaches to punishment, such as restorative justice and welfare-based interventions. Arguments for the abolition of punishment will also be considered.

Course info

Credits 20

Level of Study Postgraduate

Mode of Study 1 year Full Time

Department Northumbria Law School

Location City Campus, Northumbria University

City Newcastle

Start September 2022

Fee Information

Module Information

All information on this course page is accurate at the time of viewing.

Our Campus based courses starting in 2022 and 2023 will be delivered on-campus with supporting online learning content. We continue to monitor government and local authority guidance in relation to Covid-19 and we are ready and able to adjust the delivery of our education accordingly to ensure the health and safety of our students and staff.

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