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SP30364: Death in the criminal justice system

[Page last updated: 04 August 2021]

Academic Year: 2021/2
Owning Department/School: Department of Social & Policy Sciences
Credits: 6 [equivalent to 12 CATS credits]
Notional Study Hours: 120
Level: Honours (FHEQ level 6)
Semester 2
Assessment Summary: ES100
Further information on unit assessment Assessment Detail:
  • Assessment detail for this unit will be available shortly.
Supplementary Assessment:
Like-for-like reassessment (where allowed by programme regulations)
Aims: This unit draws on criminological, legal, sociological, historical, mediated and politics perspectives to critically explore the causes, context and culture of deaths and dying in the criminal justice system. It considers deaths that occur as a criminal sanction (e.g. the death penalty), as a consequence of criminal actions or negligence, or as a consequence of contact with the criminal justice system (either as an offender, prisoner, detainee or staff member). In so doing, it considers questions of state accountability, and the moral, philosophical and legal complexities that deaths in the criminal justice system present.

Learning Outcomes: By the end of this unit students will be able to:
1. Critically discuss the role of the State in actively or indirectly 'killing' those in contact with the criminal justice system
2. Explain and discuss the different forms of deaths represented (e.g. homicide, suicide, drug overdoses, deaths due to negligence, the death penalty and deaths caused by natural causes)
3. Understand and explain the key institutions, key legislative and human rights frameworks, and the key actors involved
4. Recognise and marshal the main arguments for reform, whether in policy, practice and legislation.
5. Identify, explain and critically assess the available evidence, data and academic literature to address contemporary debates.

* Critically assessing the nature, causes, context and consequences of death and dying in or following contact with a range of criminal justice institutions
* Critically assess the role, responsibilities and legislative obligations of the State
* Critically analysing contemporary debates, key theories and key concepts related to death and dying in the criminal justice system
* Critically engaging with academic texts from a range of disciplines
* Independent research - identifying and locating a range of relevant sources, including policy papers, interest group publications, statistical data, academic texts, Parliamentary papers and legislation
* Critical reading skills
* Critical analysis and independent thought
* Thinking creatively, including thinking about possible reforms
* Writing skills - communicating clearly and concisely
* Developing and constructing a persuasive argument
* Planning, preparing and drafting a written assessment

Content: The content will depend on available teaching expertise, but is likely to include topics such as:
1. Sociological Perspectives on Death and Dying
2. Historical Perspectives on Death and Dying in the Criminal Justice System
3. Deaths of individuals in contact with the police
4. Deaths whilst individuals are under probation supervision
5. Deaths in prison custody
6. Death in immigration detention
7. The Death Penalty
8. Deaths of Criminal Justice Staff
9. State Accountability for Deaths in the Criminal Justice System� 
10. Media representations of deaths in the criminal justice system.

Programme availability:

SP30364 is Optional on the following programmes:

Department of Social & Policy Sciences
  • UHSP-AFB22 : BSc(Hons) Criminology (Year 3)
  • UHSP-AFB16 : BSc(Hons) Social Policy (Year 3)
  • UHSP-AKB16 : BSc(Hons) Social Policy with Year long work placement (Year 4)
  • UHSP-AFB05 : BSc(Hons) Social Sciences (Year 3)
  • UHSP-AKB05 : BSc(Hons) Social Sciences with Year long work placement (Year 4)
  • UHSP-AFB04 : BSc(Hons) Sociology (Year 3)
  • UHSP-AKB04 : BSc(Hons) Sociology with Year long work placement (Year 4)
  • UHSP-AFB10 : BSc(Hons) Sociology and Social Policy (Year 3)
  • UHSP-AKB10 : BSc(Hons) Sociology and Social Policy with Year long work placement (Year 4)


  • This unit catalogue is applicable for the 2021/22 academic year only. Students continuing their studies into 2022/23 and beyond should not assume that this unit will be available in future years in the format displayed here for 2021/22.
  • Programmes and units are subject to change in accordance with normal University procedures.
  • Availability of units will be subject to constraints such as staff availability, minimum and maximum group sizes, and timetabling factors as well as a student's ability to meet any pre-requisite rules.
  • Find out more about these and other important University terms and conditions here.