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An opinion essay

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Reading text

Some people think that some types of criminals should not go to prison. Instead they should do unpaid work in the community. To what extent do you agree?

Owing to the great variety of crimes that can be punishable by prison, some people argue that not all criminals are the same and it would therefore be more appropriate to give certain criminals community service instead. I agree that in some cases, prison may not be the best solution and community service would probably have more benefits.

One justification given for prisons is to keep society safe by removing criminals from the outside world. So the first thing to consider is if someone who has broken the law is a danger to other people. In the case of violent crime, there is an argument to keep the perpetrator away from society. However, burglary or possession of drugs, for example, does not involve violence against other people so the criminal does not present a direct danger to anyone in the community. Keeping these types of criminals in prison is expensive for the taxpayer and does not appear to be an effective punishment as they often commit the same crime again when they come out of prison.

Personally, I also believe punishments should reform people so they do not reoffend. A further reason not to put these people in prison is that they may mix with more dangerous and violent criminals, potentially committing a worse crime when they are released. By keeping them in the community, helping others, they not only learn new skills, but they could also develop more empathy and care towards others. If this occurs, society can only benefit.

Critics of this more rehabilitative approach to crime believe that justice should be harsh in order to deter people from committing similar crimes and that community service could be less likely to have that effect. However, there is very little evidence to suggest that long prison sentences deter criminals.

In conclusion, putting criminals who are not a danger to society in prison is expensive and, in my opinion, ineffective, both as a deterrent and as a form of rehabilitation. Community service for non-violent crimes benefits both society and the offender. That said, it would be useful to have more data to work out whether community service or prison is more likely to stop someone reoffending. I strongly believe that decisions on how best to deal with criminals should be based on evidence of what actually works.


  1. Introduce your essay by restating the question in your own words.
  2. If the essay asks you to what extent do you agree?, make your opinion clear throughout. You can either agree, partially agree or disagree with the statement, explaining and justifying your opinion.
  3. The structure should be:
    • Introduction
    • The first reason why you agree/disagree
    • The second reason why you agree/disagree
    • The third reason why you agree/disagree (if you have one)
    • Conclusion
  4. Use phrases to organise and link your ideas, e.g. Owing to … , One justification for … , The first thing to consider is … , A further reason … , In conclusion ... .
  5. If you do not have solid evidence for your ideas, use modal verbs such as might, may or could (e.g. they could develop more empathy and care) or other tentative phrases (e.g. it does not appear to be an effective punishment).
  6. Conclude by restating your opinion and summarising your two or three main arguments.



Language level

Advanced: C1


There are many kinds of crimes which it could be argued that either to keep all criminals in prisons or to let some of them work in community service is better. In my opinion, I think we should let some kinds of criminals work in community service rather than keeping all criminals in prisons.
The first thing to consider is what prisons' purposes are? They are places to isolate criminals from society, but not all kinds of criminals need to be quarantined. Some of them are harmful to people or have troubles with their mental health, but some are not, such as burglars, robbers. Next, the second purpose is to reform the criminals that they will not reoffend when rejoin in society. Then, what's better to reform criminals is what we should do.
Personally, I think that with kinds of good criminals who are not harmful to other people and have normal physical mind, we should let them work in community service. Working in the community will be good for the society, the prisons and criminals. With the society, a visual effect is that there will be cheap or free service and less wasting taxes for prisoners. For the prisons, they will not only have less work to do, but their goal of rehabilitation is also easier to get when the good criminals are isolated from the bad, that the good will at least not become worse. Last, on the side of criminals, they will learn how to be sociable besides skills of work and communication that will rehabilitate them faster, especially being good when the criminals rejoin in society after that.
In conclusion, I support the idea of letting some criminals work as community service workers. Following the aims of prisons and punishments, there're not all criminals needing to keep in jails. To good criminals, working in the community will be very helpful to not only themselves but also society and prisons.
Please make clear that as I know so far, in my country all criminals are kept in prisons where they could work as workers for companies which hire prisons producing their products. I don't see any prisoners work for community service yet, so there may be some misunderstandings in this comment.

It's usually said that when a person has done something bad like a crime, It could be directly send to prison. Personally i think it's necessary first to see deep inside the nature of the crime before deciding to send a perpetrator in prison. I agree that community service can be better than prison for some crime