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Comparative Penology

Code: 100461 ECTS Credits: 6
Degree Type Year Semester
2500257 Criminology OT 4 0
The proposed teaching and assessment methodology that appear in the guide may be subject to changes as a result of the restrictions to face-to-face class attendance imposed by the health authorities.


Josep Cid Moliné

Use of Languages

Principal working language:
english (eng)
Some groups entirely in English:
Some groups entirely in Catalan:
Some groups entirely in Spanish:


It is strongly recommended to have passed the course of penology. To follow the course a minimum level of B1 in English is required and a B2 level is advisable.

Objectives and Contextualisation

The subject belongs to the specialization on “Intervention with offenders” and pretends to approach students to innovative international penological experiences  that may be useful to orientate their work in the field of corrections.


  • Ability to analyse and summarise.
  • Applying an intervention proposal about a person serving a sentence.
  • Carrying out the criminological intervention on the basis of the values of pacification, social integration and prevention of further conflicts.
  • Drawing up an academic text.
  • Formulating research hypothesis in the criminological field.
  • Identifying the most appropriate and effective penal intervention for each particular case.
  • Reflecting on the foundations of criminology (theoretical, empirical and ethical-political ones) and expressing this in analysis and propositions.
  • Students must demonstrate they know a variety of criminal policies in order to face criminality and its different foundations.
  • Verbally transmitting ideas to an audience.
  • Working autonomously.
  • Working in teams and networking.

Learning Outcomes

  1. Ability to analyse and summarise.
  2. Accurately applying the most efficient criminal proceedings to the criminal act.
  3. Applying the appropriate foundations of criminal policy depending on the type of crime observed.
  4. Applying the scientific and criminological knowledge to the punishment studies.
  5. Carrying out penology researches with well-formulated hypothesis.
  6. Drawing up an academic text.
  7. Inferring those criminological proceedings that try to avoid criminal relapse.
  8. Suggesting the correct action that should be applied in a penal execution.
  9. Verbally transmitting ideas to an audience.
  10. Working autonomously.
  11. Working in teams and networking.



1) Penolgical systems in the international context

2) Good practices in the penological field

3) Spanish penolgical practices and the European penological policy


4) Alternatives to imprisonment versus imprisonment

5) Comparative effectiveness of alternatives to imprisonment

6) Restorative justice in the international context

7) Alternatives for high-risk offenders

8) Assessement of alternatives to imprisonment in Spain in comparative perspective


9) Explaining different rates of imprisonment

10) Keys for humane containment

11) Research on desistance

12) Effectiveness of reentry programs

13) Assessment of reentry programs in Spain in comparative perspective



Teaching will be mixed: lectures will be online and seminars face-to-face.

Teaching activities

The course will be organized as follows:

a) Lectures, in which the professor will expose innovative practices in comparative penology.

b) Seminars to discuss readings: students will come to the seminar having read the paper and written an essay. The essay should have the form of a review. Students will be stimulated to use bibliographical support to write the essay. The seminar will be organized around one point of debate. Students will discuss first in small groups to prepare the debate and then the debate with the whole group will take place. A group of students will commnet  the  debate and decide the winner group.

c) Seminars to present the progress in the Group Research Project: each group of students (maximum of three students) will choose a topic to work during the semester. The topic should be related with a penological problem in the country of the origin of students and the work of the semester will consist of looking for good practices in comparative penology. During the seminars students will present their progress and will receive feed-back from students and professor.

d) Tutorials: students need to ask for at least one tutorial to receive the advice of the professor to complete the group work. This tutorial is mandatory for students.

Before the beginning of the course a week schedule of activities will be provided, as well as more specific indications for the Group Research Project.


Title Hours ECTS Learning Outcomes
Type: Directed      
Lectures 19.5 0.78 2, 4, 3, 5, 7, 8
Seminars 19.5 0.78 3, 5, 6, 1, 9, 11
Type: Supervised      
Oral presentation of the group work 4.5 0.18 1, 9
Tutorial 0.5 0.02 5, 1, 9
Type: Autonomous      
Group work 53 2.12 4, 5, 8, 6, 1, 9, 10, 11
Reading of penological papers and writing essays 53 2.12 4, 6, 1, 10


Criteria of evaluation

a) Essays (35%). In the recension is valued to discuss in deep a relevant point of the paper and the use of additional references.

b) Group work (35%). The aspects most valued are: choosing a relevant topic, attention to international penological practices, extension of the references, quality of the proposal of reform, and respect for formal academic standards. 75% of the mark is based on the written work and 25% on the oral presentation.

c) Attendance (10%)

d) Participation (20%). Participation is mainly assessed by the active role in debates. Preparation of the debate and solid argumentation of the position based on criminological arguments will be the specially rewarded.

e) Essays in classes. May increase the final mark up to 1 point over 10.


Students that do not attend more that 20% of the sessions will not be assessed. Absences are only acceptable for illness or similar serious reasons. Absences for academic reasons are only justifiable provided they have been accepted by the professor in advance. Classes start on time. Late arrival is not admitted.


In case a student do not reach the required achievement in any reading or in the group work, he/she will have one opportunity to improve the work done. In this case, the maximum mark will be 5.


Essays and group work should be original. In case plagiarism is detected, the student will get a 0 in the essay. A relapse will conduct to a fail mark in the subject, losing the possibility of reassessment.

APA rules

These rules should be followed in writing essays and group research work.

Assessment Activities

Title Weighting Hours ECTS Learning Outcomes
Attendance 10% 0 0 2, 4, 3, 5, 8, 6, 1, 9
Essays 35% 0 0 4, 3, 5, 7, 6, 1, 10
Group work 35% 0 0 2, 5, 7, 8, 6, 1, 9, 10, 11
Participation 20% 0 0 4, 7, 8, 9


Recommended handbooks

-Cid J. (2009). La elección del castigo. Suspensión de la pena y probation versus prision. Barcelona: Bosch.

-Cavadino M. & Dignan J. (2006). Penal systems. A comparative approach. London: Sage.

Mandatory readings

1. One of these two papers: Díez-Ripollés, J. L. (2013). Social Inclusion and Comparative Criminal Justice Policy, Journal of Scandinavian Studies in Criminology and Crime Prevention, 14(1), 62-78. Díez-Ripollés J.L. (2011). La dimensión inclusión/exclusión social como guía de la política criminal comprada. Revista electrónica de ciencia penal y criminología, 13, 1-36.

2. Cavadino M. & Dignan J (2006). Introducing comparative penology. Penal systems: a comparative approach (pp. 1-39). London: Sage.

3. One of these two papers: Cid, J. & Andreu, A. (2017). European Prison Policy and Spanish Prison Practices: Understanding Confluences and Gaps. In T. Daems; L. Robert (eds.), Europe in Prisons (pp. 255-289), London: Palgrave-MacMillan; Cid J. (2010). La política criminal europea y la realidad española: una brecha que debe superarse. Estudios penales y criminológicos, 30, 55-83.

4. Kruttschitt, C. & Dirkzwager, A. (2011).  Are there still Contrasts in Tolerance? Imprisonment in the Netherlands and England 20 years later. Punishment & Society, 13 (3), 283-306.

5. Petersilia J. (1997). Probation in the United States. Crime and Justice. An annual review of research, 22, 149-200.

6. Smith L.G. &  Akers R. (1993). A comparison of recidivism of Florida’s community control and prison: a five years survival analysis. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, 30 (3), 267-292.

7. Blumstein A. (2004). Prisons: a policy challenge. In Wilson J.Q, &  Petersilia J. (eds.), Crime. Public policies for crimecontrol (pp. 451-482) Oakland: ICS Press.

8. Bottoms A. & Shapland J. (2011). Steps towards desistance among male young adult recidivists. In S. Farrall., M. Hough., S. Maruna i R. Sparks  (eds.), Scape routes. Contemporary perspectives on life after punishment (pp. 42-77). London: Routledge.

9. Travis J. (2005). But they all come back. Facing the challenges of prisoner reentry (pp. 319-352). Wahsington: The Urban Institute.