NEW! – Crime & Punishment Course at Helping Hands

A Kirsten Kearney J March 25, 2013
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In ESC we believe in thinking our ways round a problem until we come up with solutions. One lady helping us to do that is Karen Tilson, who is volunteering to run a new course in our Helping Hands centre.

10 weekly sessions on Wednesdays 17.30 pm to 19.30 pm, starting Wed 17th April.

This course will examine Old Bailey records to show how crime and punishment has changed over time. We will look at the historical, political and religious influences on how crime was dealt with. We will assess forms of punishment – transportation, death penalty, workhouse, ASBOS, restorative justice.

And we will ask questions such as: Should life imprisonment mean life? What is the purpose of prison – punishment or rehabilitation? Does prison work?

Email us at to book your place.

Here’s what Karen has to say:

I have worked in the Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals Service for over 20 years. I have always been an avid reader of crime novels and have always been interested in crime dramas and real life crime stories. I left school with O Levels. A Levels were a disaster! Once I started work I continued studying at night classes and gained 2 A Levels and some additional secretarial qualifications. I then completed a degree in Law/Social Sciences with the Open University. As part of my studies I undertook a module on Criminology and this sparked my interest in the subject. It combines aspects of law and examines why people commit crime from a sociological perspective and this really fascinates me. For various reasons, including economic ones, I decided against training to be a solicitor. I felt that this was not the way I should go. I did not think this would be satisfying career path for me. Instead I continued studying with the Open University and gained an MA in Social Policy and Criminology. For some time now I have been looking at ways of getting involved in working with offenders.

For health reasons I had a 2 year break from NICTS and whilst temping I had the opportunity to complete a Certificate in Adult Learner Support and for a while I volunteered in an Adult literacy class. During this time I also became involved in leading a youth group and I discovered a love of teaching and a passion for helping others. Teaching as a career path was something I had always avoided as there are lots of teachers in my family. I had always said I wanted to do something different but perhaps teaching is in my genes.

I have an interest in rehabilitation of offenders and in the connection between literacy and offending/re-offending. I firmly believe that education is one of the key factors in reducing re-offending. My other areas of interest are in restorative justice and in how crime is reported by the media.

My motivation for wanting to work this area is that I have a strong sense of wanting to make a difference in the lives of people who come in contact with the criminal justice system. I feel that when sentences are handed down there is a general belief among the wider public that justice has been seen to be done and this is all that is required. However, I do not agree with this notion. There must be more to it than that. There are of course no simple solutions to the issues in society but we cannot allow people to come out of prison the same way they went in otherwise there is a likelihood that they will just end up re-offending.

I hope that by looking at the issues surrounding crime and punishment that students will gain a better understanding of the historical influences on crime and be able to critically assess the purpose of prison and other forms of punishment.



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