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Understanding Imprisonment: The Intended and Unintended Consequences of Incarceration


Admission requirements

This course is an Honours Class and therefore in principle only available to students of the Honours College. There are a few places available for regular students.


Imprisonment is the most severe sanction meted out in modern countries. At present, about ten million people are being held in penal institutions worldwide. Besides retribution, crime prevention and reducing recidivism is an important goal of imprisonment. Recent research findings have however suggested that imprisonment may also have unintended collateral consequences on various life domains of offenders, like their employment, social relationships and well being of their family members. Additionally, current studies in criminology and penal law have also questioned incarceration as a method of crime prevention. The way ex-prisoners return to communities is however dependent on their individual experiences during detention. For example, the prison climate experienced and intervention programs completed. All persons interested in and actors working in the criminal justice systems (e.g. criminologist, prosecutors, judges and persons working in the prison system) should be familiar with the details of how imprisonment is meted out and what the intended and unintended consequences of imprisonment are.

This Intensive Summer Honours Class aims to provide students with state of the art knowledge on research and practice on imprisonment, both in the Netherlands and in international and historical perspective. This course will take students on an intensive and exciting journey through imprisonment as part of the criminal justice system, as well as life in and after imprisonment. By drawing on different perspectives (e.g. criminology, law, sociology, economy, psychology, historical science, philosophy and anthropology) the course has an interdisciplinary character and will allow students from different backgrounds to think about and reflect on various sub themes. The course will be guided by an (inter-)national team of renowned researchers, and will also, by use of excursions and guests from policy and practice, familiarize students with the actuality of public policy and daily practice.

Course objectives

Upon successful completion of this course, students:

  • Are able to explain important concepts regarding the topic of imprisonment.

  • Can critically evaluate on the topic of imprisonment, and specifically the intended and unintended consequences of imprisonment.

  • Are able to evaluate and compare the state of the art in scientific theories and results of empirical studies discussed during this course concerning imprisonment, and the effect of imprisonment on the development of criminal behavior

  • Are able to write a research paper in which they use both theoretical and empirical knowledge to answer a relevant research question.


19 June – 27 June, 9.00-17.00 hrs


De Oude Sterrewacht / Old Observatory, Sterrenwachtlaan 11, Leiden, room c005.


  1. Imprisonment and the Criminal Justice System
  2. Imprisonment in historical and comparative perspective
  3. Prison Life
  4. Prison-based rehabilitation programs
  5. Re-entry and probation
  6. Life after imprisonment: work, social relations, health
  7. Life after imprisonment: criminal behavior and recidivism

Each of seven meetings will consist of a morning- and afternoon program, which will consist of lectures and quest lectures, but will also include workshops and excursions.

Course Load

This course is worth 5 EC, which means the total course load equals 140 hours.

  • Lectures and seminars: 7 lectures of 8 hours

  • Literature reading & practical work: 4 hours p/lecture

  • Portfolio & final paper: 56 hours

Assessment method

  • 10% Summary of the required literature, studied prior to the start of the course

  • 25% Portfolio made up of reflection papers

  • 65% Final paper of 3000 words

Blackboard and uSis

Blackboard will be used in this course. Students can register for the Blackboard site two weeks prior to the start of the course.

Please note: students are not required to register through uSis for the Honours Classes. Your registration will be done centrally.

Reading list

Relevant literature will be made available trough blackboard.


Enrolling in this course is possible from Monday November 7th until Sunday November 20th through the Honours Academy, via this link


Anouk Bosma MSc