This module is a resource for lecturers  


Student assessment


This section provides suggestions for a post-class assignment for the purpose of assessing student understanding of the Module. Suggestions for pre-class or in-class assignments are provided in the Exercises section.


Assessment questions

To assess students' understanding of the Module, possible essay/examination questions could include:  

  • To what extent can and does the sanction of imprisonment meet the differing aims of criminal punishment? 
  • "Individuals are sent to prison as  punishment, not for  punishment." Discuss.
  • Why are prisoners' rights important?
  • Are prisons in crisis around the world?
  • To what extent are Sykes's 'pains of imprisonment' relevant to contemporary understanding of the impact of imprisonment?
  • "Prisons detain the most vulnerable and marginal groups in society." Discuss.
  • "Prison staff are underpaid and overworked." Discuss.
  • To what extent, if at all, should prisoners' complaints be treated seriously?
  • Which human rights standards are the most relevant to prison reform in the twenty-first century? To what extent can and should they be implemented?
  • Discuss the extent to which individualized sentence plans, normalized regimes and constructive activities can improve public safety?
  • Can the development of alternatives to imprisonment address the problem of overcrowding in prisons?
  • "Imprisonment around the world should be abolished." Discuss.

Assessed presentations

Assessed presentations provide a useful basis from which to assess whether students have understood the different topics covered in the classroom. Lecturers should set down a clear time-limit for assessment presentations (for example, 20 minutes, including five minutes for two to three questions from the student audience). Assessment may be based on the following three criteria:

  • the delivery of the presentation, including pace, engagement with the audience, use of visual materials, handouts etc. (20%)
  • a clear and logical research plan, identifying key sources, evidence of critical thinking etc. (20%); and
  • the overall content and coherence of the main argument and presentation (60%).

Topics for assessed presentations should reflect one part of the Module content. The questions below are provided as examples:

  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of the theories of punishment?
  • Why is prison reform important?
  • To what extent can prison overcrowding lead to human rights violations?
  • What is it like to live in prison?
  • What is the role of a prison officer?
  • To what extent are prisons difficult and dangerous places to live/work in?
  • Can prisons operate humanely, in line with international human rights standards?
  • To what extent can alternatives to imprisonment assist in the process of prison reform?
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