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Study information

Theology and Criminal Justice

Module titleTheology and Criminal Justice
Module codeTHE2199
Academic year2019/0
Module staff

Dr Esther Reed (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

This option module is designed to explore the connections between religion and criminal justice; to explore the implications of Christian doctrines such as justification for our understanding of the treatment of offenders; to familiarise you with the main lines of the contemporary debate about criminal justice; and to consider the ethics of present policies for dealing with offenders.

In addition to providing you with overviews of major issues in relevant jurisprudence, theology and ethics, the module gives opportunity to you to work from present-day issues in criminal justice, e.g., whole life tariffs, racial profiling, legalising certain drugs, (over-)use of imprisonment as a punishment strategy, prison and the profit motive, whether restorative justice works. Where possible, we shall visit Exeter County Court and meet with people involved either professionally or in a voluntary capacity with the criminal justice system.

There are no pre-requisites. This module is suitable for students with a philosophical, sociological or theological background. It is expected, however, that you will come with an interest in the kinds of issues detailed here.

Module aims - intentions of the module

The module aims to enable you to:

  • Think for yourself (in a supportive setting) about the relation between law, justice and ideology, how ‘crime’ is defined, the meaning of and justifications offered for punishments, running prisons for profit, whether ‘restorative justice’ is sentimentalised wishful-thinking, how the Churches have / should contribute to dealing with crime.
  • Equip you with sufficient knowledge of relevant literature in the field to be able to develop a critical and constructive approach to present-day issues in criminal justice
  • Introduce you to leading research and controversial views on present-day issues in criminal justice
  • Enable you to understand and critique the contribution of Christian theology to the historical development, as well as present-day understanding(s) and practice, of criminal justice in the UK today

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Demonstrate detailed knowledge of theological influences on the main theories of crime and punishment
  • 2. Relate detailed knowledge of current debates about dealing with offenders
  • 3. Demonstrate those debates to particular cases
  • 4. Demonstrate awareness of the theological and ethical issues involved in those debates

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 5. Demonstrate awareness of and careful assessment of aspects of Christian theological contributions to debate in the public arena about justice
  • 6. Make appropriate use of a variety of complementary methods of study: theological, social scientific, and ethical
  • 7. Evaluate and analyse, with limited guidance, a diversity of primary and secondary sources, including materials from different disciplines

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 8. Undertake guided work within broad guidelines
  • 9. Shape detailed information into a coherent account, with some guidance
  • 10. Demonstrate consistency and rigour in method and argument
  • 11. Make thorough use of selected written sources, with some guidance
  • 12. Communicate clearly in written and oral forms
  • 13. Participate appropriately in a learning group

Syllabus plan

Whilst the content may vary from year to year, it is envisioned that it will cover some or all of the following topics:

Part One: Law and Justice

  • Law, Justice and Ideology
  • Jurisprudence: A Brief Historical Overview including Christian Perspectives
  • Theologies of Justification and Implications for Criminal Justice

Part Two: Crime and its causes

  • What is Crime?
  • Race, Ethnicity and Crime
  • Women, Children and Crime

Part Three: Punishment

  • Justifications of Punishment
  • Punishment and the Profit Motive

Part Four: Reconciliation

  • Restorative Justice and the Perspective of the Victim
  • The Resettlement of Offenders
  • The Church’s Contribution to Dealing with Crime

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled learning and teaching11Lectures
Scheduled learning and teaching22Seminars
Scheduled learning and teaching2Trips/Visits
Guided independent study265Private study

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Participation in three group presentations45-75 minutes (jointly)1-13Orally in seminar and in a 1:1 tutorial

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay504000 words1-12Referral/Deferral period
Examination502 hours1-12Referral/Deferral period

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
EssayEssay1-12Referral/Deferral period
ExaminationExamination1-12Referral/Deferral period

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to submit a further assessment as necessary. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • Amy Levad, Redeeming a Prison Society: A Liturgical and Sacramental Response to Mass Incarceration (Fortress, 2014)
  • Rowan Cruft, Crime, Punishment, and Responsibility: The Jurisprudence of Anthony Duff (OUP, 2011)
  • Willard M. Oliver, Catholic Perspectives on Crime and Criminal Justice (Lexington Books, 2008)
  • Timothy J.Gorringe, Crime (SPCK 2004)
  • Christopher D. Marshall, Beyond Retribution: A New Testament Vision for Justice, Crime, and Punishment (Eerdmans, 2001)
  • Michael Ignatieff, A Just Measure of Pain (London 1978)
  • Timothy J. Gorringe, God's Just Vengeance (Cambridge 1996)
  • H.L.A.Hart, The Concept of Law(Oxford 1961)
  • Emil Durkheim, The Rules of Sociological Method (1901). Extracts.

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Key words search

Crime, Punishment, Justice, Theology

Credit value30
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


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Last revision date