This module is a resource for lecturers   




This section contains suggestions for pre-class and in-class educational exercises, while post-class assignments for assessing students' understanding of the Module are suggested in a separate section. Some of the exercises below call for small group participation and feedback to the class. When feedback is required during the Module, lecturers should use discretion, because not all groups will be able to provide feedback every time. Lecturers should ensure that all groups get the opportunity to provide feedback at least once.


Pre-class exercises


Exercise 1

Lecturers can provide students with a short summary (no more than an A4 sheet) summarizing the five main justifications of punishment (see Topic 1 of the Module - 'What justifies punishment?' - as well as the PowerPoint slides for illustrations of the different theories of punishment). As part of the task, students can be asked to research the question: What are the aims of imprisonment?

Lecturer guidelines:  To assist in this process, lecturers may choose to ask students to watch the video by Tom Eberhardt listed below on the importance of rehabilitation as the underlying purpose of imprisonment, or the UNODC video on Bolivia, which explores the same theme (see Additional Teaching Tools). These videos will provide students with an insight as to the underlying aims of punishment and prison systems in various parts of the world. Lecturers may then wish to start the class with a brief 'Q&A session' on the theories of punishment, as well as carrying out a quick survey among the class (by show of hands) regarding the weight that students would give to the different principles of punishment within a system of imprisonment.

The group exercise at the beginning of the class should take no more than ten minutes.

Exercise 2

Prior to the class, students can be asked to research the profile of the national prison population, as well as the overall capacity of the prison system.

Key questions to investigate:

  • How many prisoners are there in the country?
  • How many female prisoners?
  • How many prisoners are on pre-trial detention?
  • What is the capacity of the prison system?
  • To what extent is the prison system overcrowded?
  • What are the facts/pertinent issues regarding the prison population in the country and the region?

Students can be asked to search for information from newspaper articles, or information from NGOs in their region about the national prison system. They should also be directed towards information from the World Prison Brief. Lecturers may then develop a multiple-choice quiz that students can participate in at the start of the class on the national prison population. Different answers to each question can be read out to the group by lecturers. Students can vote (with a show of hands) on which response they think is the correct one.

The multiple-choice quiz should take no more than ten minutes.

Exercise 3

If possible, lecturers should organize a prison visit for students to a local prison prior to the Module. This exercise, however, could also form part of an in-class activity if the Module is developed into a stand-alone course.

Lecturer guidelines:  Setting up a prison visit prior to the Module (or as part of a course) will involve contacting the prison administration many weeks (potentially months) in advance, and arranging security clearance for everyone in the group, as well as transport to the prison. Ideally, lecturers should visit the prison themselves before taking a group of students with them. If a student visit to the prison can be arranged, lecturers should emphasize that attendance, while highly encouraged, is entirely voluntary. Prior to the visit, students should be informed about appropriate dress code, behaviour within the prison, what to expect during the visit, as well as the need to bring personal identification for security reasons, if required.

All prisons are different. The content of a prison visit will most likely be determined by the prison administration. It will also depend on the security classification of the prison. Depending on resources and the time available by prison staff, a student prison visit would ideally include a tour of some of the premises - for example, prison buildings/wings, a typical prison cell, segregation unit, prison officer facilities, chaplaincy and communal areas (such as dining areas, visiting rooms, health, education and exercise facilities, external grounds etc.). If possible, it would also include an informal discussion/debate with a group of prisoners who are willing to meet with the students. If a meeting with prisoners is permitted, lecturers should chair a group discussion and ask students to bring at least one question they wish to ask prisoners about living in prison, or instigate a debate on a particular topic related to prison reform. After the visit, students should also be given the opportunity to de-brief and discuss their visit with lecturers either as a group or individually, if required.

If access to a local prison is not permitted, it may be possible for lecturers to invite a guest speaker, such as a prison officer or manager, or someone who regularly works inside a prison (for example, social workers, psychologists, probation officers, prison chaplaincy, educational or health professionals) to discuss their work in the classroom. If this is not feasible, lecturers could record an interview with the speaker prior to the class (interview/talk to last no longer than ten minutes). The interview/talk can then be used to instigate and inform group discussion. Prior to the interview or talk, lecturers should ask each student to write down one question on the topic, and facilitate a ten minute 'Q&A session' afterwards, integrating as many questions from the students within the time limit.

If a prison trip is not permitted, the interview/talk exercise with a guest speaker in class should take no more than 20 minutes.  


In-class exercises


Exercise 4

Invite students to participate in a multiple-choice quiz on 'the history of prison reform', asking questions about key figures, writers, organizations and their achievements.

Lecturer guidelines:  If possible, integrate pictures of prison conditions, and individual reformers through history within the quiz handout or presentation, with a particular focus on the regional and local history and conditions of prisons. Lecturers can read out the multiple answers to each question, then ask students to vote with a show of hands as to which response they think is the correct one.

This exercise should take no more than five to ten minutes.

Exercise 5

Ask students to divide into small groups to consider one or both of the following questions: (i) ' What is the profile of the national prison population?' and (ii) ' What is life like in the local prison?'.

Lecturer guidelines:  Students can use flip-charts or notes to report back to the group. This exercise should take no more than ten to 15 minutes.

Exercise 6

Arrange a group role-play exercise that engages students with the topic 'living in prison', and requires them to focus on answering the question: 'What would I have to leave behind at the door of the prison?'

Lecturer guidelines:  In this exercise, students may start to think about their families, friends, clothing, personal possessions, mobile phones, access to the internet, media, living space, own bedroom, home-cooked food, health care, education, exercise, community facilities etc. Students should be guided by lecturers towards thinking about the importance of prisoners' rights and international standards, as well as independent oversight of prisons. To avoid any concerns regarding victimization or sensitivity, case studies could be developed and presented to the group for different students to consider 'living in prison' from different perspectives. For example: What would a teenager have to leave behind at the front door of the prison, or a mother, young father, or elderly person?

This exercise should take no more than 20 minutes.

Exercise 7

Ask students to divide into small groups by turning to students sitting close to them to consider the following question: ' What would it be like to work in prison?'.

Lecturer guidelines:  Ask each group to brainstorm the issues generated by the question, and use flip charts to report their discussions back to the class. During this exercise, students should be guided by lecturers to think about key issues that might arise, such as the balance between care and control, the importance of prison officer education and training, the role of international rules and standards in prison work as well as the need for independent oversight of prisons.

This exercise should take no more than ten to 15 minutes.

Exercise 8

Towards the end of the Module, divide the class into two groups and set up a group debate, asking one group to develop points and arguments supporting the statement - "Imprisonment should be abolished" - and the other group to develop points and arguments supporting the statement - "Imprisonment should not be abolished".

Lecturer guidelines:  Give both groups ten minutes to prepare their arguments, and five minutes to deliver their main points through one key speaker (flip-charts can also be used to summarize each of the groups' main points). At the end of the debate, ask the class to vote on whether prison should be abolished or not. Students can also be asked to vote on whether the use of imprisonment should be reduced, or abolished for certain groups or types of offences. Lecturers should also encourage discussion on the need to reduce and reform the use of imprisonment worldwide, and the role and importance of alternative sanctions to imprisonment.

This exercise should take no more than 20 minutes. 

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