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#LA-04-13 Incarceration: Are Prisons a Suitable Punishment?

  • Categories Law
  • Duration 12h
  • Total Enrolled 11
  • Last Update January 9, 2021

About Course

University of Leeds


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.

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?

University of Leeds

University of Leeds

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.

What Will I Learn?

  • 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.

Topics for this course

13 Lessons12h


Welcome to Incarceration: Are prisons a suitable punishment? This course explores the role of justice in both punishing and rehabilitating those who break the law.
Welcome to the course
Introduction from Richard00:02:52

Does breaking the law always result in prison??

In this activity, you will consider why we punish and the ethical implications of different forms of punishment.

The prison system: problems and solutions?

In this activity you explore the prison environment itself and learn how current conditions compare to the aims and intentions of custody. This will help you think critically about what might solve some of the issues highlighted.

The experience of imprisonment?

This activity looks at how ethical the treatment of prisoners is and considers the prison experience. You will critically compare some of the harsher prison environments with some seemingly more lenient prison regimes.

Student Feedback


Total 4 Ratings

3 ratings
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I really enjoyed this course. The material was interesting and it was presented in a very engaging way. Good variety of input types, with some particularly great video materials. The course is well paced and deals with ethical debates very well. Would highly recommend.

Fantastic course!So interesting, informative and thought provoking but put in a simple way. So many interesting references. The best parts were the interviews with people who have been involved in the system - their perspectives were invaluable. Highly recommend this course to all, as it gives critical insights into an integral part of our society which is sadly overlooked.

I found this course very educational and thought-provoking. Most important materials were presented in a manner that was respectful to all learners and allowed for a very wide range of feedback and insight. This course is worth the time and investment. Thank you.

Having worked for 20 years in the Prison Service I was interested to find out more about non custodial sentences. To be honest, the course content has changed my opinion of their effectiveness.


Material Includes

  • Official Certificate

Target Audience

  • 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.