Politics of Prison

Department of Political Science and International Studies, School of Government and Society

College of Social Sciences


Code 23984

Level of study Third/Final year

Credit value 20

Semester 1 and 2

Pre-requisite modules Where students take this course as a 10 credit unit they will be expected to undertake self directed study of the material not covered from the readin

Module description

Prisons mirror the societies that create them. Issues of gender, class, and race are clearly in play, and political and ethical questions around justice, punishment, rehabilitation, deviance, and “normal” citizenship. This module engages with theories and ideas around some of the thornier issues every democracy faces.
Most of us have never been inside a prison, and may not even know where our local prison is. But we have probably watched Prison Break, America’s Toughest Prisons, Bad Girls, or the Shawshank Redemption. Why are prisons so invisible in real life, but so visible in film and television? Documentary and fictional films will be shown and analyzed as we address issues of media and reality.
Finally we look at prisoners as subjects as well as objects of discourse. The international writers’ union, PEN, runs writing programmes in prisons. Texts written by prisoners will provide a basis for answering the questions: what is the point of writing in prisons, and what do prisoners have to write about anyway?
This module builds analytical and critical skills introduced in second-year modules such as Foundations of Modern Political and Social Theory or Institutions, Politics, and Policies of the EU, and it complements other final-year modules such as Contemporary Political Theory; British Politics and the Media; International Ethics; Gender in World Politics; and Critical Approaches to Security

Teaching and learning methods

These courses are taught by a combination of lectures, classes and directed reading.

This module is available as:
Autumn term only 10 credit unit – 3,000 word assessed essay
Spring term only 10 credit unit – 3,000 word assessed essay
Whole Year 20 credit unit – 2 x Presentations (10%) each, 4,000 summative essay (40%), plus 2 hour examination (40%)