Strengths And Weakness Of Community Punishment

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What is community service and what examples of sanctions can the judge give out to the offender, (Cavadino, Dignan & Mair, 2013). How was the community order formed? Talk about what will be discussed in this essay.

This essay will consist of strengths and weaknesses of community punishment in relation to a more punitive form of punishment otherwise known as imprisonment. There will be a critical examination on why community punishment should be used more often with an output of the positive aspects regarding this method within the penal system as an overall good form of punishment. Punishment is very important aspect in the UK. One of the most common modes of punishment are prisons, but there are many limitations regarding prisons to analyse if it actually works. Community punishment is a great technique as from research shown that the essential reason why people commit offences because they are isolated from their culture. (Cullen & Gendreau,2001) quote…..

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The difference between community sentence and prisons is community sentences are commonly used for minor offences like….. whereas people are given prison sentences are given to major crimes like rape, theft, murder.

Cost Effectiveness of Community Sentences

One key strength of community punishment according to the government is that it is cheaper in comparison to prisons to punish offenders (Barajas, 1993; Larivee, 1993; House Of Commons,2019 ). This is because it costs the government £38,636 to fund a criminal in a public sector prison (Ministry of justice, 2018). Whereas it costs £3,000 to sentence an offender to a community service program(cite). An example of an inexpensive program of community service is drug rehabilitation which is a cheaper alternative to prevent criminal activity (Petersilia,1995). Drug rehabilitation is typically for offenders who suffer from drug addiction. There are two important aspects of drug rehabilitation, one being that it requires the offender to attend testing regularly and secondly, the court has access to the offender’s progress records (Cavadino, Dignan & Mair, 2013). This Is effective as it saved £60,000 per individual by sending them to treatment programmes instead of custody solutions of treatments (Make justice Work, 2011). This program keeps in contact with the client to help them throughout their sentence to overcome their hardship and helps them to reintegrate back into society, reducing costs of recidivism rates. As The cost of reoffending for people who were released from custody is as high as £13.5 billion (National Audit Office,2010). Additionally, according to the Prison Reform Trust there is 59,000 convicts in prison, and that prisons rates have increased by 69% in the UK leading to overcrowding (Ministry of Justice 2019). The outcome of overcrowding results the government, to not have enough funds to supply basic necessities for offenders, which leads to bad conditions as prisoners do not have access to the clean hygiene supplies and can only leave their cells up to 6 hours a day according to the chief inspector of prisons (Cavadino, Dignan & Mair, 2013). This is because there is an excess number of prisoners, but understaffing issue.

Although prisons are not a cheaper alternative, according to Micheal Howard 1993 ’prison works’ because the main priority includes incapacitation of high-profile dangerous criminals with offences such as “murders, muggers and rapist” (Cavadino, Dignan & Mair, 2013: 36) away from the public to protect society. A justification of prisons is to deter people from creating the same mistakes of offenders and to think twice of their actions. (Cavadino, Dignan & Mair, 2013). In addition, community punishment is believed to get results up to a tenth of the money to send someone to prison (Parliament, 2017 not this cite). This shows that prisons have a wider impact to stop others from committing a crime.

Statistics also show that 46 percent of adult offenders are in prison serving a 6 month or less sentence, which is not enough to help them but to damage them. Courts give out 6-12 months sentences to minor offences which could be used much more effectively served in the community in comparison to prison as it saves money (Ministry of Justice 2019).

Community Punishment not Harsh Enough

Although community punishment is in fact cheaper in comparison to prisons, members of the public would argue that the offences committed by the perpetrator are not punished harsh enough to the crimes that they have caused. In this case, offenders are viewed to be getting off lightly (Lawrence, 1991). Whereas Punishment in prisons involve solidarity confinement of prisoners and deprive inmates of their liberty, not allowing offenders to have the freedom of movement, restricting what they can do in a day (Skyes, 2007). This way, the offender is punished properly in response to their crimes they have committed as well as providing public protection. Prisoner’s experiences prove to the public that these crimes are not unseen or forgiven with a simple community punishment. Community punishment, however, allows criminals to continue engaging in their normal day-to-day life. By giving them the freedom to visit family and friends, this ultimately allows them to cause more harm than to society. As one requirement of community punishment, community paybacks requires the offender to undertake unpaid work in the community with a minimum of 6 hours (Cavadino, Dignan & Mair, 2013). Which is a light sentence as the criminal is not under constant supervision allowing them to spend the rest of their day doing what they like rather than being locked in a prison cell as a form of exclusion from society. Punishment must be harsh enough because it must be able to deter others from committing crime. As punishment must be bold enough to put emphasis to the serious issue of breaking the law. By portraying punishment as relatively laid back through community punishment, this takes away the fear of being sentenced to imprisonment and does not stop people from committing minor offences.

Although members of the public believe that the community punishment does not ‘fit the crime’ committed. Community punishment helps repair offenders back into a society of law-abiding citizens (Ministry of justice, 2012). In contrast according to the Community punishment may be harsh as research has found some offenders would prefer to go to prisons instead. As with community orders the judge may give many sanctions to the community order that must be served which can be hard to commit to while having other aspects of life to worry about such as job or children. Those who have many requirements to community sentences that cannot fulfil to attend their regular meetings with probation officers, may be breaching the contract of their community order and this could lead to the offender going back to court which could lead to the judge revoking their original sentence to give them a harsher sentence. (Cavadino, Dignan & Mair, 2013)

Overall prison is seen as a more punitive version of punishment. As community sentences main justification is to reform rather than punish offenders back to society.

Rehabilitative Effect of Community Sentences

Whilst community punishment is not harsh enough, their main aims to rehabilitate offenders are still effective in reducing the recidivism rates in comparison to prisons. As community sentences help offenders to reform their corrupt behaviour and to be assisted by probation officers to become law abiding citizens that are less likely to reoffend (McNeil & Whyte, 2007). Rehabilitation is a main aspect of the penal system according to positivist thinkers whom believe “that ‘prisons doesn’t work’ in reforming offenders” (Cavadino, Dignan & Mair, 2013:39). This is because research has found that most offenders lack social skills and a decent education from an absence of role models which eventually leads to poor life decisions and limited self-control ultimately leading to a life of crime (Ross & Fabiano, 1985) Therefore “personal, situational, economic and interpersonal pressures towards illegal behaviour” (Ross & Ross, 1995 p. 33). From the prison reform trust report 34% of inmates that were assessed in prisons had learning difficulties or other problems (Loucks N, 2007). Sentencing those in the community will be helpful as they would also be able to get support from family and friend to make a full change in their performance. Community sentences has many accredited programs that give the individuals a chance to be able to learn new skills that will help them learn to support themselves in society. The features of the orders have led to reformed behaviour of the criminals which results to reduced recidivism rates. This was shown in the report by the Ministry of justice as prisons have a reoffending rate of 63 per cent in comparison to community sentences of 56 per cent. (2017) This was because community sentences have programmes like drug treatments to specifically target issues to help offenders rehabilitate effectively, as statistics show 84 percentage of offenders with a drug addiction have complex issues that would not be helped in a prison environment (Ministry of justice, 2015). This is because for people serving 6-12-month prison sentences for less serious crimes, they are in environment where there are mixed with dangerous criminals which means that although prisoners are in custody for a short amount of time it is not a long time to reform them but enough time to damage the individuals.

Politicians believe that short term sentences should be abolished as it also causes difficulties once the criminal gets discharged, resulting to problems in housing, employment and family impacting the individual to reoffend. (House Of Commons, 2019). Prison does not correct an individual behaviour as they do not have the resources to support those offenders (Zoran Kanduc). Whereas community sentence programs such as alcohol treatment and supervision which lasts up to 36 months its aim is to is treat and rehabilitate offenders to overcome their issues (Cavadino, Dignan & Mair, 2013). While being able to pay to maintain a job to provide costs to their rent and be able to build relationships. Community service was effective for female offender in terms of rehabilitation …..


Community service has many strengths and weaknesses to providing justice to society. As community order is an alternative choice to prison and is being used more by courts. Equally some crimes committed by offenders are not serious enough to be send to prisons


  1. Ministry of Justice (2018) Cost per place and cost per prisoner by individual prison. London: Ministry of Justice. Available at: (30/12/19)
  3. Barajas, E., Jr. (1993). Defining the role of community corrections. Corrections Today, 55, 28- 32.
  4. Cavadino, M., 1953, Dignan, J. & Mair, G. 2013, The penal system: an introduction, 5th / Michael Cavadino, James Dignan and George Mair. edn, London, Los Angeles, Calif.
  5. Petersilia, J. (1995). A crime control rationale for reinvesting in community corrections. Spectrum, 68, 16-26.
  6. Ministry of Justice (2013) 2013 Compendium of re-offending statistics and analysis, London: Ministry of Justice
  7. Ministry of Justice (2019) Offender management statistics: Prison receptions 2018, London: Ministry of Justice
  10. General debate on the cost and effectiveness of sentences under 12 months and consequences for the prison population [image: page1image66063616]
  11. Lawrence, R. (1991) ‘Reexamining Community Corrections Models’, Crime & Delinquency, 37(4), pp. 449–464. doi: 10.1177/0011128791037004003.
  12. Reducing Reoffending Social work and community justice in Scotland Fergus McNeill and Bill Whyte
  13. Ross, R. R. (1995). ‘Programme development through research’. Thinking straight: The reasoning and rehabilitation programme for delinquency prevention and offender rehabilitation.?
  14. Ross, R. R. (1985). Time to Think: A Cognitive Model of Delinquency Prevention and Offender Rehabilitation.?
  16. Loucks, N. (2007) No One Knows: Offenders with Learning Difficulties and Learning Disabilities. Review of prevalence and associated needs, London: Prison Reform Trust
  17. CULLEN, F.T. & GENDREAU, P. 2001, ‘From Nothing Works to What Works: Changing Professional Ideology in the 21st Century’, The Prison Journal, vol. 81, no. 3, pp. 313-338


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