Criminal Law, Poverty and Justice

Subject LAWS70413 (2016)

Note: This is an archived Handbook entry from 2016.

Credit Points: 12.5
Level: 7 (Graduate/Postgraduate)
Dates & Locations:

This subject is not offered in 2016.

Time Commitment: Contact Hours: The total class time is between 24 and 26 hours.
Total Time Commitment:

The pre-teaching period commences four weeks before the subject commencement date. From this time, students are expected to access and review the Reading Guide that will be available from the LMS subject page and the subject materials provided by the subject coordinator, which will be available from Melbourne Law School. Refer to the Reading Guide for confirmation of which resources need to be read and what other preparation is required before the teaching period commences.

Prerequisites: None
Corequisites: None
Recommended Background Knowledge:

Applicants without legal qualifications should note that subjects are offered in the discipline of law at an advanced graduate level. While every effort will be made to meet the needs of students trained in other fields, concessions will not be made in the general level of instruction or assessment. Most subjects assume the knowledge usually acquired in a degree in law (LLB, JD or equivalent). Applicants should note that admission to some subjects in the Melbourne Law Masters will be dependent upon the individual applicant’s educational background and professional experience.

Non Allowed Subjects: None
Core Participation Requirements:

The Melbourne Law Masters welcomes applications from students with disabilities. The inherent academic requirements for study in the Melbourne Law Masters are:

  • The ability to attend a minimum of 75% of classes and actively engage in the analysis and critique of complex materials and debate;
  • The ability to read, analyse and comprehend complex written legal materials and complex interdisciplinary materials;
  • The ability to clearly and independently communicate in writing a knowledge and application of legal principles and interdisciplinary materials and to critically evaluate these;
  • The ability to clearly and independently communicate orally a knowledge and application of legal principles and interdisciplinary materials and critically evaluate these;
  • The ability to work independently and as a part of a group;
  • The ability to present orally and in writing legal analysis to a professional standard.

Students who feel their disability will inhibit them from meeting these inherent academic requirements are encouraged to contact the Disability Liaison Unit:


For more information:

Phone: +61 3 8344 6190

Subject Overview:

What is the relationship between human rights and just criminal sentencing? Does the level of imprisonment reflect something significant about the character of a society? The world’s population of incarcerated people has increased dramatically in recent decades. Mass incarceration, sentencing policies and excessive punishment have become serious issues in the United States and many other nations, while the reliability and fairness of the criminal justice system have been questioned. This subject will examine the costs of modern trends towards increased use of incarceration and the impact of these policies on vulnerable populations like juveniles, the mentally disabled, racial minorities and the poor. In this subject, the rule of law surrounding crime and punishment is explored through a human rights frame with attention to reform strategies and the way forward.

Principal topics will include:

  • Sentencing policy
  • Mass incarceration and excessive punishment
  • The impact of current policies on the poor and vulnerable
  • Reform law and litigation strategies
  • The intersection of human rights and criminal law
Learning Outcomes:

A student who has successfully completed this subject will:

  • Have increased knowledge of sentencing laws and criminal punishment policy
  • Be able to articulate a thoughtful and informed perspective on punishment policy including mass incarceration, excessive punishment and the plight of the vulnerable in criminal justice systems
  • Articulate advanced thinking on what fairness requires for just administration of the criminal law in the 21 st century

Take-home examination (100%)

Prescribed Texts:

Core subject materials will be provided free of charge to all students. Some subjects require further texts to be purchased. Details regarding any prescribed texts will be provided prior to the commencement of the subject.

Breadth Options:

This subject is not available as a breadth subject.

Fees Information: Subject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date
Links to further information:

This subject has a quota of 30 students. Please refer to the website for further information about the management of subject quotas and waitlists.

Related Course(s): Graduate Diploma in Government Law
Graduate Diploma in Human Rights Law
Graduate Diploma in International Law
Graduate Diploma in Legal Studies
Master of Human Rights Law
Master of Laws
Master of Public and International Law

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