Online course in Politics & the Modern World

Incarceration: Are prisons a suitable punishment?

Explore life inside UK prisons. Learn whether this type of punishment reduces crime and if rehabilitation can prevent reoffending.

  • Duration 2 weeks
  • Weekly study 4 hours
  • Learn Free
  • Extra benefits From $59 Find out more
  • Accreditation Available More info

Explore the ethics of imprisonment and identify prison alternatives

England and Wales have the highest incarceration rate in Western Europe. Almost a quarter of these prisoners are held in overcrowded prisons. On this course, you will take a look inside the prisons of England and Wales.

You will consider the role of imprisonment as a form of punishment, and hear from ex-prisoners about their experience of being incarcerated. Through case studies, you will explore the challenges faced by the current prison system. You will identify alternative methods of punishment and rehabilitation, and learn about the debates that exist within the criminal justice system.

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Skip to 0 minutes and 6 secondsRichard: England and Wales has the highest imprisonment rates in Western Europe. Around 70% of people who were sent to prison have committed a non-violent offence. Nearly a quarter of the prison population are held in overcrowded prisons while other forms of punishments, like community sentences, have nearly halved since 2006. This online course looks inside the prisons in England and Wales and takes you on a journey that will challenge your understanding of imprisonment. You will understand the role of imprisonment as a mechanism of punishment, hear from ex-prisoners who will describe their experience of being incarcerated, and understand the challenges the current prison system faces.

Skip to 0 minutes and 54 secondsThrough stimulating case studies, you will explore alternative ways of punishment, rehabilitation, and understand the debates within the criminal justice system and criminology. I'm Doctor Richard Peake, and I'm passionate about prisons and all forms of punishment and improving outcomes to prisoners and society. Join this course, Questioning the Prison System in England and Wales, today.

What topics will you cover?

  • Identify the aims of imprisonment as punishment and recognise the justifications and ethical implications of subjecting individuals to custody.
  • Explore prison conditions and regimes, considered in relation to punishment being solely ‘loss of liberty’.
  • Identify issues facing prisons, including safety and security, overcrowding and drug misuse.
  • Compare jurisdictions with different aims and objectives.
  • Explore the criminal justice system: what sanctions are available and where punish and imprisonment fits.
  • Examine rehabilitation as a key to reducing reconviction rates and crime by changing the individual and/or providing skills ready for release.
  • Explore alternatives to custody for less serious crimes: fines, community orders and suspended sentences.
  • Assess the effectiveness of such sanctions in comparison with custody.
  • Discuss the extent to which rehabilitation and resettlement are key to reducing reoffending.

Who is this accredited by?

The CPD Certification Service: This course has been accredited by the CPD Certification Service, which means it can be used to provide evidence of your continuing professional development.

When would you like to start?

Most FutureLearn courses run multiple times. Every run of a course has a set start date but you can join it and work through it after it starts. Find out more

  • Available now
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What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you'll be able to...

  • Explore the role of imprisonment as a mechanism of punishment, its legitimacy and ethical standpoint and identify its aims.
  • Discuss how prisoners should be treated and what ethical considerations should be considered in deciding physical conditions of custody.
  • Identify issues within the prison system, including overcrowding, drug misuse and safety.
  • Compare different prison systems and evaluate which might be most effective and the most ethically sound.
  • Explain the concept of rehabilitation in both changing the individual and its wider role of crime reduction.
  • Explore alternative punishments to imprisonment, their effectiveness and discuss if these are ethically more acceptable than custody.
  • Reflect on how custody and alternative forms of punishment are utilised with the overall aim of reducing crime.

Who is the course for?

This course is for anyone looking to investigate whether prisons are a suitable punishment for offenders.

The course will be useful for professionals such as social workers, probation officers, and anyone that supports prisoners.

This course is also useful for learners interested in studying criminology or related disciplines at undergraduate or postgraduate level.

Who will you learn with?

Richard Peake

Richard Peake

After serving 23 years in the RAF, I gained a 1st class degree in Criminology, before completing a PhD and have been a lecturer in Criminology & Criminal Justice at Leeds University since 2006.

Who developed the course?

As one of the UK’s largest research-based universities, the University of Leeds is a member of the prestigious Russell Group and a centre of excellence for teaching.

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