What you will study
The module is organised around three strands: causes of crime, responses to crime, and thinking beyond crime and criminal justice. You'll be introduced to questions such as:
- What is crime? What defines 'crime' and why are some harmful behaviours labelled 'crimes' while others are not?
- Who is a victim? What is criminal justice?
- Why do certain behaviours come to be defined as ‘criminal’?
- What are the limitations of criminology for explaining things that are unjust or harmful, and what other ways are there of thinking about crime, criminal justice and the things that cause us harm?
Block 1 gives you a brief overview of how these questions shape criminology. Through films about sex workers and self-inflicted deaths in prison, you'll begin to explore what different responses to these questions reveal about relationships between individuals and society, and power and inequality. You'll be introduced to the ways in which criminologists use theories and concepts alongside observations to build an understanding of the issues that interest them.
Block 2 begins by exploring different understandings of the causes of crime and some of the criminal justice responses that come from them. You'll be introduced to biological, psychological and sociological explanations of crime causation and explore the main ways in which different criminal justice policies are understood to address the problem of crime.
Block 3 starts with the question why are some harmful actions and behaviours considered to be criminal, while others are not. You'll look at who defines crime, how such definitions are enforced and how some, but not all, lawbreakers come to be labelled as "criminals". You'll consider the role of the victim in criminal justice systems and explore the key issues surrounding their inclusion and exclusion. You'll also learn about aspects of criminal justice such as community justice and policing, and ask questions about how effectively criminal justice policies achieve their stated goals.
Block 4 considers the limitations of criminology and criminal justice for thinking about other harmful actions that fall outside the gaze of crime policy and practice. You'll be introduced to the concepts of 'invisible crimes' and ‘invisible victims', and explore the idea of that the physical harm and injury caused by some social structures, institutions and social and economic policies can be understood as a form of violence. The module concludes by examining the implications of a social harm perspective for policy and practice, and inviting you to reflect on your own theoretical positions.
This module will build on the knowledge and skills you have gained at OU level 1 study and will further develop your skills of critical analysis, argumentation, academic writing and reflection on your learning.
It reflects The Open University’s commitment to developing modules that span and integrate a range of learning outcomes across the areas of knowledge and understanding, cognitive (analytical) skills, key skills of communication and information literacy and lifelong learning, and practical and professional skills. The development of these skills is embedded within every stage of the module and you will be supported in progressively developing these.
This module is relevant to a wide range of jobs in the public, voluntary, community and commercial sectors. The areas and themes the module looks at are directly relevant to a variety of jobs in public administration, social welfare services, criminal justice services, community support services amongst others. The analytical and key skills you will develop are relevant to any job context. Amongst the ‘transferable’ skills you will develop are: the ability to identify, gather, analyse and assess evidence; present reasoned and coherent arguments; write clearly in a range of styles such as essays for an academic audience and analyses of complex issues for a non-academic audience; group work; apply learning to non-module provided examples and situations; and plan and reflect on your own work and learning.