Course Outline

Topics: Prison, Sociology, University of Oxford Pages: 11 (2439 words) Published: August 30, 2013
Master of Social Sciences (M.Soc.Sc.) in Criminology
First Semester 2013-14

SOCI8004 Punishment and Society
(Thursday, 6:45 – 9:45 p.m., CPD 3.01)

Dr. Kalwan Kwan (
Dr. XU Jianhua (

The social institution of punishment is a central object of social theory and in many ways a mirror of society and its norms. Why and how should we punish wrongdoers in our society? The course aims to explain punishment and society in a multi-dimensional context, entrenched in disciplines including criminology, penology, sociology, psychology, ethics ….. Punishment, in other words, is far more than a technical problem linked to certain institutions of crime control and prevention. The course will look at the different functions of punishment, like retribution, deterrence, incapacitation, rehabilitation, and restoration. We will trace those functions historically and culturally, finding vast cultural and social differences in the way in which punishment is practiced. For instance, there is a vast difference in how Americans and Europeans think about and practice punishment, and we even find other approaches to punishment in China. The course will start by looking at the popular opinions about punishment, reminding us that the issue of punishment is both a normative and a scientific issue.

Learning Outcomes:

By the end of this course students should be able to:

1. understand the differences between common sense approaches and scientific evidence based approaches to the effects of punishment; 2. understand basic philosophical arguments about punishment; 3. learn how to see punishment in a comparative and historical context; 4.identify basic issues of rehabilitative and retributive approaches to punishment; 5. discuss basic issues concerning the death penalty.


(A) Write a term paper of about 3000 words to be submitted two weeks after last lecture, i.e. 12 Dec 2013. Late submission will be penalized. Select a punishment option (from informal to formal), find out its origin, philosophical base, penological ideology, and critically examine its ‘existence’ as to whether and why it should or not be used. Selected topic should be submitted to lecturer not later than end of November 2013. (Proper referencing, e.g. APA formatting & style!) 40 %

(B) There will be normal credit assigned for performance, attendance and presentations (15%) in class (a written script from the presentations is required, approximately one signed page (around 400 words) per person (10%) since all should participate in the group work). 25 %

Groups of 4 ~ 5 students will be formed to presenting any one of the following topics on 14 Nov and 21 Nov (each group has only 15 minutes!). Selected topics and group list should be submitted to lecturer before 7 Nov.

a) critically examine the applicability of privatization of punishment in Hong Kong; b) critically examine how to measure whether a prison is a good prison; or c) critically examine whether sexual offenders should be castrated.

Students are not supposed to fail to attend more than three classes without due reason. (Repeated late arrivals and early departures are not good for overall performance evaluation).

(C) There will be no formal exam for the course, but there will be an in-class test of 3-hrs at the end of the term scheduled on 28 Nov 2013. Topics cover everything covered in the course, and challenging what is not covered in the course, and practical scenarios as to how to manage offenders. 30 %

(D) Before you come, write down your views on the question: Is crime beneficial to society? (500 words signed page per student). Then come for the first lecture on 5 Sept 2013 and discuss. 4% (early birds who email to Dr Kwan on or before midnight 1 Sept 2013 receive 1%)

Distribution of scores:
A) individual assignment of 3000 words40%
B) group presentation (group)15%
written script of...
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