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Understanding Imprisonment: The Intended and Unintended Consequences of Incarceration


Admission requirements

This course is also available to students of the Honours College Law.


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 course aims to familiarize 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 a field trip and guests from policy and practice, familiarize students with the actuality of public policy and daily practice.

Course objectives

Achievement levels:
The following achievement levels apply with regard to the course:

  • 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, in historical and international perspective.

  • 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.


The timetable of this course can be found in uSis.

Mode of instruction


  • Number of (2 hour) lectures: 5

  • Names of lecturers: dr. A.Q. Bosma and guest lecturers.

  • Required preparation by students: Students are required to prepare for the lectures by reading the assigned literature provided on Blackboard.


  • Number of (2 hour) seminars: 3

  • Names of instructors: dr. A.Q. Bosma and guest lecturers.

  • Required preparation by students:

Other methods of instruction

  • Description: Field trip

  • Number of (2 hour) instructions: 1

  • Names of instructors: dr. A.Q. Bosma

  • Required preparation by students: No preparation is required.

Assessment method

Examination forms

  • Final paper (70%)

  • Presentation (30%)
    Attendance and active participation in the lectures, seminars and field trips is required.
    Students have to pass all the aspects of the course (grade > 5,5) in time in order to get their final grade.
    All grades only hold for the present academic year with one retake option.

Submission procedures
Honours College Law students are required to write a portfolio that consists of assignments (3). This portfolio has to be graded as sufficient in order for the students to pass.

Areas to be tested within the exam
The examination syllabus consists of the required reading (literature) for the course, the course information guide and the subjects taught in the lectures, the seminars and all other instructions which are part of the course.


More information on this course is offered in Blackboard.

Reading list

Obligatory course materials Literature:
Will be provided via Blackboard.


Students have to register for courses and exams through uSis. Exchange students can register through the online registration system of the International Office.

Contact details


  • Institute: Criminal Law and Criminology

  • Department: Criminology

  • Room number secretary: B3.11

  • Opening hours: Mo/Tu/Th/Fr 9-17 h

  • Telephone number secretary: +31 (0)71 527 7324

  • Email: