IELTS Essay : Do prisons work ?

Writing task 2


You should spend 40 minutes on this task.

Write about the following topic:

In many places, prisons are overcrowded and expensive for governments to maintain. Yet, when offenders are released, they end up back in prison a short while later.

Do prisons work?

Give reasons for your answer and include any relevant example from your own knowledge or experience.

Write at least 250 words.

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Sample Answer

Imprisonment is one of the most common forms of punishment in several parts of the world. However, the effectiveness of this system has been in question for a long time! A high percentage of prisoners relapse into crime once they are released into the community. In my view, sentencing criminals to time in prison fails in most cases and in this essay I will explain why.

Firstly, offenders enjoy a comfortable life in prisons. Many of them have access to luxuries such as televisions, mobile phones, free internet and sport facilities etc. In other words, instead of being a place where lawbreakers should learn a life lesson, prisons become holiday camps. If the penal system really expects prisons to act as a deterrent, then I think it should be tougher.

Secondly, separation from society is not the solution of problem for most offenders. Take pickpockets and shoplifters as examples. Keeping these petty criminals in the same cells as rapists, murderers or violent criminals actually worsens the situation. This is because after serving their time in prisons, juvenile and minor offenders often turn into habitual and professional criminals.  Sadly, governments and tax payers have to bear the cost of keeping these recidivists (= a criminal who continues to commit crimes even after they have been punished) in jails. I think punishing them through fines, community service or other non-custodial means etc. is a better option.

To conclude, I do understand that criminals who pose a threat to society cannot be allowed to roam freely. For such people, imprisonment is necessary. But, for other offences prison is not the answer. In my view, the severity of the crime committed should be taken into consideration before deciding on the punishment.


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