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Prisons, Punishment and Penology

1. Introduction to Penology

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In this module, we introduce some key areas of interest within penology, including: (i) the question of legitimacy and whether states have the right to punish, looking at the main justifications of state punishment – deterrence, incapacitation, reform and rehabilitation, and retribution; (ii) issues around power and inequality, and the disproportionate application of punishment to marginalised social groups; (iii) the relationship between social change and penal change as a central focus of penology.


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

MLA style

Scott, D. "Prisons, Punishment and Penology – Introduction to Penology." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 24 Aug 2021,

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