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Prisons, Punishment and Penology

6. Contemporary Debates in Penology

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About this Lecture


In this lecture, we think about some contemporary debates in penology, focusing in particular on: (i) David Garland’s explanation for the persistence of prisons in terms of, for example, the rise of high-crime societies and the collapse of the ideals of reform and rehabilitation; (ii) some important issues in Garland’s argument, such as the continued importance of reform and rehabilitation in debates around prisons; (iii) Dr Scott’s positions on some key contemporary debates, including his arguments in favour of the abolition of punishment.


In this course, Dr David Scott (The Open University) explores key philosophical and sociological approaches to prisons, punishment and penology. In the first lecture, we introduce some key areas of interest within penology, looking especially at moral justifications for punishment. In the second lecture, we consider the classical philosophical approaches of Cesare Beccaria, Jeremy Bentham, Immanuel Kant, and William Godwin. In the third lecture, we think about Émile Durkheim’s sociological work on punishment. Next, we think about the Marxist approach of Georg Rusche and Otto Kirchheimer. In the fifth lecture, we examine Michel Foucault’s influential account of the emergence of the prison in modern capitalist society. In the sixth and final lecture, we explore some contemporary penological debates.


Dr David Scott works at the Open University. He researches and teaches on prisons, penal abolitionism and the sociology and philosophy of punishment. His publications include For Abolition: Essays on Prisons and Socialist Ethics (2020), Against Imprisonment: An Anthology of Abolitionist Essays (2018), and, with Nick Flynn, Prisons and Punishment: The Essentials (2014).

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Scott, D. (2021, August 24). Prisons, Punishment and Penology - Contemporary Debates in Penology [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Scott, D. "Prisons, Punishment and Penology – Contemporary Debates in Penology." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 24 Aug 2021,

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