LAW41050 Coercive Confinement

Academic Year 2022/2023

This module provides an overview of the incarceration of tens of thousands of men, women and children during the first fifty years of Irish independence. Psychiatric hospitals, mother and baby homes, Magdalen homes, reformatory and industrial schools, prisons and Borstal formed a network of sites of coercive confinement that was integral to the emerging state. The module examines a wealth of contemporaneous accounts of what life was like within these austere and forbidding places as well as offering an explanation for the longevity of the system and the reasons for its ultimate decline. While accounts exist of individual institutions and the factors associated with their operation, this is an attempt to provide a holistic view of the interlocking range of institutions that dominated the Irish landscape and, in many ways, underpinned the rural economy. The module highlights the overlapping roles of church, state and family in the maintenance of these forms of social control. These arguments remain relevant as Irish society continues to grapple with the legacy of its extensive use of institutionalization.

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Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

On successful completion of this module students will be able to:

Critique the social control function of prisons and Borstal, reformatory and industrial schools, psychiatric hospitals, Magdalen homes, and mother and baby homes.

Debate the limitations of utilising prison populations as the exclusive measure of a society’s level of punitiveness.

Demonstrate a detailed awareness of the novelty of present penal arrangements in light of a broader historical understanding of coercive confinement.

Analyse official and unofficial accounts of the various captive societies, including archival materials, policy documents, autobiographies, and tracts advocating reform.

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours
Seminar (or Webinar)


Autonomous Student Learning




Approaches to Teaching and Learning:

Requirements, Exclusions and Recommendations

Not applicable to this module.

Module Requisites and Incompatibles
Not applicable to this module.
Assessment Strategy  
Description Timing Open Book Exam Component Scale Must Pass Component % of Final Grade
Assignment: 1250 word assignment Week 9 n/a Graded No


Essay: 3750 word essay. Titles will be distributed in teaching week 4 and essays are due on the last Thursday of the semester. Week 12 n/a Graded No


Carry forward of passed components
Resit In Terminal Exam
Summer No
Please see Student Jargon Buster for more information about remediation types and timing. 
Feedback Strategy/Strategies

• Feedback individually to students, post-assessment

How will my Feedback be Delivered?

Not yet recorded.

Timetabling information is displayed only for guidance purposes, relates to the current Academic Year only and is subject to change.
Lecture Offering 1 Week(s) - 3 Mon 16:00 - 17:50
Lecture Offering 1 Week(s) - 1 Thurs 11:00 - 12:50
Lecture Offering 1 Week(s) - 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12 Thurs 11:00 - 12:50
Lecture Offering 1 Week(s) - 2 Tues 14:00 - 15:50