Pervasive Punishment: In/justice and penal control SOCIO4119

  • Academic Session: 2023-24
  • School: School of Social and Political Sciences
  • Credits: 20
  • Level: Level 4 (SCQF level 10)
  • Typically Offered: Either Semester 1 or Semester 2
  • Available to Visiting Students: Yes

Short Description

This course aims to introduce and challenge the centrality of the prison in the sociology of punishment by critically examining claims about the emergence of 'mass supervision' in the era of 'mass incarceration'. Focusing on the UK and the USA (and to a lesser extent Europe), we will examine two ways in which supervisory punishment has become pervasive. Firstly, we will explore how and to what extent supervisory forms of punishment are pervasive in society, assessing the scale and distribution of supervision and incarceration in these jurisdictions, and noting the ways in which both supervision and incarceration are targeted at particular populations. Secondly, we will consider how and to what extent these forms of punishment are pervasive in their effects on the lives of those subject to them, exploring the intensification of supervision as a lived experience, and showing how and to what extent penal supervision is painful, even if it can sometimes also be helpful. In examining these social and personal aspects of the pervasiveness of contemporary punishment, we will assess how and to what extent supervision reflects and reinforces social inequalities. The course will draw on classical and contemporary sociological and criminological theories not just to explain and critique the development of pervasive punishment but also to propose how it might best be challenged.



Requirements of Entry

In order to take this course you need to have met the requirements for entry into our Honours Programme. This means achieving a grade of 'D' or better in Sociology 1A and 1B and a 'C' or better in Sociology 2A and 2B. You also have to comply with the College of Social Science regulations for progression to Honours.

Excluded Courses





This course is assessed through a mid-term reflective writing assignment on 'experiencing supervision' (1000-1,500 words, 30%) and a summative essay (3,000 words, 70%)

Are reassessment opportunities available for all summative assessments? No

Reassessments are normally available for all courses, except those which contribute to the Honours classification. For non-Honours courses, students are offered reassessment in all or any of the components of assessment if the satisfactory (threshold) grade for the overall course is not achieved at the first attempt. This is normally grade D3 for undergraduate students and grade C3 for postgraduate students. Exceptionally it may not be possible to offer reassessment of some coursework items, in which case the mark achieved at the first attempt will be counted towards the final course grade. Any such exceptions for this course are described below. 

Course Aims

The general aims of the course follow from our subject area's aim of developing a sound knowledge and critical understanding of the academic discipline of Sociology. In particular, this course aims to provide a critical introduction to the sociology of punishment and to inter-disciplinary analyses of the field of 'penality'. The course places particular emphasis on understanding the contemporary importance of supervisory punishments (probation, parole, etc.), critiquing their neglect as a major limitation of existing scholarship. It includes a focus on the 'lived experience' of supervision, exploring how this is mediated by its associated cultures and practices, as well as by its institutional and social settings. It engages with and reflects upon creative research methods (including creative writing, photography and song) in exploring these issues.

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

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

■ Identify and explain the significance, meaning and constitution of penal supervision as a social practice or set of social practices.

■ Critically assess a range of classical and contemporary sociological analyses of punishment, focusing in particular on their ability to help us make sense of 'mass supervision'.

■ Evaluate the contributions of a range of inter-disciplinary perspectives in furthering our understandings of the field of 'penality' in general (meaning those discourses, institutions, cultures and practices associated with punishment) and punishment in the community in particular.

■ Describe and analyse particular contemporary cultures and practices of supervisory punishment in their historical, social, political and institutional contexts.

Minimum Requirement for Award of Credits

Students must submit at least 75% by weight of the components (including examinations) of the course's summative assessment.