LLM Programme

The taught modules offered on the LLM programme vary from year to year. Please check the full list of taught modules list for details of modules running in specific academic years. We make every effort to ensure that every module will be offered, but modules are subject to change and cancellation. You are therefore advised to check this site regularly for further updates throughout the year preceding entry to the LLM programme.

Credit value: 15 credits (6 ECTS)
Module Convenor: Dr Elaine Genders Other Teachers: Mr James Dixon (Barrister, specialising in prison law)


Despite a generally declining rate of crime the prison population in England and Wales has risen dramatically over the last twenty years and now stands at an unprecedented level for both men and women. We lock up more people per head of population than virtually all our Western European neighbours but significantly fewer than the United States. Nonetheless mass incarceration, whilst initiated earlier in the U.S., has occurred in a number of European countries. In England and Wales the growth in numbers is due primarily to a shift in the sentencing practices of both the magistrates’ and Crown courts: the courts more frequently resorting to custodial sentences as well as imposing longer periods in custody. The increasing reliance on the prison across a number of western democracies, together with its social and fiscal costs, underlines the importance of penal policy and the need for a critical examination of the modern prison.

This module aims to examine the roles that the contemporary prison plays in the criminal justice system and to explore emerging trends in response to the current fiscal crisis. It will consider key theoretical perspectives that have been used to understand the purpose of imprisonment and legitimise its operation in different historical and cultural contexts; and will critically examine prison governance, law and policy, their theoretical foundations and political construction, in the light of modern research evidence. We then examine in depth a number of contemporary policy debates including prisoners’ rights; the imprisonment of women; life sentence prisoners and deaths in prison. Whilst the module will focus largely on prisons in England and Wales we encourage participants to take the opportunity to compare prison systems from other jurisdictions.


The following issues are broadly indicative of the content of the course:

The Structure of Imprisonment: Issues of Power and Legitimacy

  • Introduction: Overview of the Prison System and Mass Incarceration
  • The Ideology of Imprisonment
  • Prisons Policy and/ or prison culture
  • Prison Governance
  • Prisons’ Accountability and Prisoners’ Rights

The Experience of Imprisonment: Issues of Equality and Legitimacy

  • Women's Prisons
  • Life sentence prisoners
  • Deaths in Prison
  • The reality of prison - visit to prison (if possible) or examination of issues raised in the course through the medium of recorded prison documentaries
  • Overview & Essay guidance

Background Reading (optional):

Students might wish to look at any or all of the following over the summer and during the course:

  • Scott, D. & Flynn, N. (2014) Prisons and Punishment: The Essentials Sage, London
  • Scott, D. & Codd, H. (2010) Controversial Issues in Prisons Open University Press, Milton Keynes
  • Jewkes, Y. & Johnston, H. (eds) (2006) Prison Readings: A Critical Introduction to Prisons and Imprisonment Willan, Cullompton
  • Easton, S. (2011) Prisoners’ Rights: Principles and Practice Routledge, Milton Park, Abingdon

All four are relatively inexpensive (check the usual online book stores) and provide different angles on the subject of imprisonment. A description of the content of each of these books can be accessed on the publishers’ websites.

Module reading lists and other module materials will be provided via online module pages, once students have made their module selections upon enrolment in September.

Delivery and enrolment
Lectures/Seminars: 10 x 2-hour seminars
Tutorials: None
Previous module enrolments: Medium – 16-50 students
Who may enrol: LLM students, other UCL Masters students
Prerequisities: None
Barred module combinations: None
Core Module for LLM specialism: Criminal Justice, Family and Social Welfare; Public Law, Human Rights Law
Final Assessment: 3,000 word coursework essay
Practice Assessment: Opportunity to obtain feedback on a 500 - 1,000 word detailed outline plan addressing a question of your choice from the previous year’s coursework titles (if undertaken in term 1 whilst the module is still being taught) or examinable titles (if undertaken in term 2 once the teaching for the module has been completed and the titles for examination have been set).

This page was last updated on 10 July, 2014


The application process for the 2015-16 academic session is now open.

Please note, for the 2015-16 intake, we are not accepting the TOEFL test. If you have an English condition to meet, you must take one of the alternative tests listed here instead.