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Explain the traditional philosophical justifications for the existence of punitive sanctions.


Learning Outcomes: On completion of this unit, you will be able to:

• Explain the traditional philosophical justifications for the existence of punitive sanctions.

• Compare and contrast the contributions of differing theoretical perspectives on the development of modern Western penal systems.

• Reflect on the connections between theories about the goals of punishment and actual penal practices.

• Engage with current debates on penal policy and practice.

Essay Questions

1. (i) Critically discuss the different philosophical justifications for punishment.

(ii) How do they manifest in relation to custodial and community sentences? Use examples to illustrate your answer.

2. Using examples, assess the arguments of Marxists (or other critical scholars) who seek to explain penal reform in terms of the changing requirements of the capitalist economy.

3. What is penal populism? To what extent has it driven developments in contemporary penal policy? Use at least two examples to illustrate your answer.

4. Examine the strengths and weaknesses of community punishment. Illustrate your answer using evidence from academic research and official statistics.

5. Are the ‘pains’ of imprisonment evenly distributed among inmates? Answer in relation to either ethnicity OR gender and use empirical evidence to support your argument.

6. Evaluate the evidence that restorative justice is more effective than conventional criminal justice responses (custodial and non-custodial) at reducing re-offending and meeting the needs of crime victims.

7. What is the ‘Nordic model’ of punishment? Could it ever be successful in England and Wales? Critically explore with reference to politics, culture and economics.

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