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LCRM101 Introduction to Criminology

Unit rationale, description and aim

Pre-trial detention and sentence imposition (imprisonment, non-custodial sentences, rehabilitation) are practices informed by principles and with particular intended purposes. These practices impact both the incarcerated, those involved in incarceration, and those subject to community sentences. Understanding these matters is necessary to help ensure the propriety of the approaches adopted, particularly when dealing with people in special groups – such as indigenous peoples. 

This unit will build on students' knowledge developed in introductory units and allow them to understand contemporary approaches to the law and professional practice applicable to prisoners and those who receive non-custodial sentences to be served in the community. The unit trajectory charts the journey of people into, within and out of incarceration, community sentences and rehabilitation. Thus, the unit begins with reviewing the justifications for imposing imprisonment as a sentence or using pre-trial detention (i.e. the routes into prison), and the role of risk in incarceration and release from prison. This foundation is extended through consideration of the need for prison regimes to be aimed at rehabilitation, the main aspects of the prison regime, and how they may be challenged in legal processes (including security classifications, outside contacts, prison discipline), and the processes leading to release and early release. The unit considers rehabilitation and post-release supervision, including the growth of risk-based detention or supervision at the end of a sentence. Throughout, there will also be consideration of groups in special positions, including young offenders, offenders with mental disorder, and groups who are over-represented in prison populations, most obviously indigenous peoples.

The aim of this unit is to provide students with the knowledge required to understand modern approaches to incarceration and to assess the propriety of those approaches. 

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

On successful completion of this unit, students should be able to:

LO1 - Describe key themes and principles applicable to modern approaches to corrections law and practice (GA1, GA2, GA3, GA4, GA5, GA6, GA8)

LO2 - Evaluate social policies underpinning approaches to punishment and rehabilitation (GA1, GA2, GA3, GA4, GA5, GA6, GA8)

LO3 - Apply contemporary principles to case studies (GA1, GA3, GA7, GA8, GA9)

Graduate attributes

GA1 - Demonstrate respect for the dignity of each individual and for human diversity

GA2 - Recognise their responsibility to the common good, the environment and society 

GA3 - Apply ethical perspectives in informed decision making

GA4 - Think critically and reflectively 

GA5 - Demonstrate values, knowledge, skills and attitudes appropriate to the discipline and/or profession 

GA6 - Solve problems in a variety of settings taking local and international perspectives into account

GA7 - Work both autonomously and collaboratively 

GA8 - Locate, organise, analyse, synthesise and evaluate information 

GA9 - Demonstrate effective communication in oral and written English language and visual media 


Topics will include:

1.    The core aspects of the law relating to pre-trial detention, imprisonment as a sentence, and other situations in which detention is used.

2.    The structure of different sentences, including determinate and indeterminate sentences, and the opportunities that exist for release.

3.    The central elements of the prison regime, and its regulation though human rights and constitutional principles, including:

  • Rights lost and rights retained, and the role of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Mandela Rules (UN Minimum Standards) in assessing this.
  • Progress through the sentence, including categorization and transfers, and access to offending behaviour work
  • Healthcare in prison
  • Contacts with family and the outside world

4.    The prison disciplinary regime, the criminal law in prison, and duties to protect prisoners and staff

5.    Special groups, including:

  • Young offenders
  • Offenders with mental disorder
  • Indigenous offenders

6.    Release processes, including early release processes and regimes for recall

7.    Post sentence controls, including risk-based detention after a sentence has expired.

8.Purpose, policy, and practice in relation to non-custodial, community sentences.

9.Purpose, policy, and practice in relation to prisoner rehabilitation.

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

This unit comprises 150 hours of study in total. It will be taught over a 12 week semester, with one 2-hour lecture followed by a 1-hour tutorial each week or ACU Online 10 week asynchronous delivery mode. Other study components might include on-line webinars, podcasts, readings, discussion forums etc. The balance of the hours is comprised of self-directed study.

The teaching strategy employed in this unit involves students’ active participation in practical learning and assessments that focus on real-world problems and challenges. In these ways the unit seeks to help students to develop their problem solving, decision making and investigative skills with regard to issues of corrections law. This unit engages students in active learning activities, such as reading, writing, discussion and problem-solving to promote analysis, synthesis and evaluation of class content. 

ACU Online 

This unit uses an active learning approach to support students in the exploration of knowledge essential to the discipline. Students are provided with choice and variety in how they learn. Students are encouraged to contribute to asynchronous weekly discussions. Active learning opportunities provide students with opportunities to practice and apply their learning in situations similar to their future professions. Activities encourage students to bring their own examples to demonstrate understanding, application and engage constructively with their peers. Students receive regular and timely feedback on their learning, which includes information on their progress. 

Assessment strategy and rationale

The assessment tasks in this unit comprise a strategy that is explicitly created to support achievement of, and determination of, the unit Learning Outcomes. They do this through integration with the learning and teaching strategy above.

This unit will be assessed by three assignments: a short answer task or quiz focused on the requisite content knowledge, a research essay, and a parole case study and report.

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

1. Short answer task or quiz. Students will be required to describe or demonstrate their knowledge of key themes relating to aspects of corrections. This may take the form of a short answer test, quiz, in-class ‘minute paper’ or other equivalent task.



GA1, GA2, GA3, GA4, GA5, GA6, GA8

2. Research Essay. This assessment requires students to discuss and critically evaluate key issues that arise by virtue of the use of imprisonment as a form of punishment. For example, students may be asked to discuss the issues faced by certain individuals or groups during a period of imprisonment and following their release from prison. The research essay will allow students to engage with the scholarship on specific approaches to research and write a substantial essay that responds to a question that engages with key issues within corrections and upon reentry.



GA1, GA2, GA3, GA4, GA5, GA6, GA8

3. Parole case study and report. This assessment requires students to consider the benefits and disadvantages of the system of parole. The task may involve students’ evaluation of a prisoner’s case file and preparation of a report which details the arguments for and against parole and their recommendation for parole release or refusal. As part of coming to this decision, students must justify their recommendation and consider the risks associated with parole release and how these risks may be mitigated through appropriate conditions.



GA1, GA3, GA7, GA8, GA9

Representative texts and references

Foucault M, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, 2020.

Scott D & Flynn N, Prisons & Punishment: The Essentials, 2nd edition, 2014.

Sim J, Punishment and Prisons: Power and the Carceral State, 2009.

O'Toole S & Eyland S, eds., Corrections Criminology, 2005.

Cullen F, Jonson C & Stohr M, The American Prison: Imagining a Different Future, 2013.

Cavadino M et al, The Penal System, 6th edition, 2019.

Liebling A & Maruna S, The Effects of Imprisonment, 2006.

Gundy A & Baumann-Grau A, Women, Incarceration, and Human Rights Violations: Feminist Criminology and Corrections, 2016.

Corrections Policies: and

Legislative regimes: and

Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights:

Parole boards: and

World Prison Brief:

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