Whenever a person pleads guilty or found guilty of an offence, a sentence is imposed to them which is decided by the court.The purpose of sentencing is reduction of crime, rehabilitation, punishment of offenders, protection of the public and making reparation to those who are affected by their offence. The main types of sentence are fines, discharge and custodial sentence whereas under custodial sentence, there are suspended, indeterminate and determinate sentence.Community sentence is one of the determinate sentence which according to Section 148 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003, community sentence can only be imposed if the offence was serious enough to warrant such a sentence. It is said to be true as imposing community sentence is better than imprisonment when the prison are overcrowded.
Community sentence is a sentence that combines punishment with activities carried out in the community. The license of the offenders must be met by them while serving their sentences. The court will consider circumstances to grant community sentence to the offenders. These circumstances could be the court thinks that the offender is more likely to stop committing crime than if he go to the prison, it is the first time the offender have committed a crime, or the offender is suffering from mental health condition that affects his behavior. Furthermore, community sentence can be given for crimes such as damaging property, benefit fraud, and assault. For instance, it is said to be unfair and unjust if the court sentenced the offender who is suffering mental health issues to prison. The illness of the offender may worsen if he is sentenced to prison as not every prison have professional mental health doctors or even consultant.
Besides, if the offender is sent to the prison when the prison is overcrowded with criminals, the offender is more likely to commit crime after imprisonment as he may learned new techniques of committing crime from those prisoners. Therefore, it is better to grant community sentence to the offenders rather than imprisonment due to the reasons stated above. The offender may reformed and realize the consequences of the crime that he committed during the period of community sentence. A single community order is established which can be applied to an offender aged 16 or above who has committed an imprisonable offence. The requirement in community order includes unpaid work, curfew , mental health treatment and others. Community orders are managed by probation officers. However, community sentence would not be granted for those who committed violent crimes such as murder. In such circumstances, indeterminate sentence is more suitable.
As there are some serious crime involving violence which is unsuitable to be granted with community sentence, the offender is given indeterminate sentence or life sentence by the court according to the seriousness of the crime committed. These offenders usually committed murder, violent and sexual offence where the court thinks the offenders are a risk to the public. The court would give this sentence by setting the minimum time the offender must spend in prison. There are also mandatory life sentence for offenders who committed murder which they will be spending the rest of their life in prison. Prisoners can apply for release on license by Parole Board after the minimum time set by the court. The Parole Board will also decide if it is safe to release the offender once the minimum time is over. If the Parole Board thinks that he is still a risk to the public, he will remain in prison.
Overcrowding of prisons is a situation when the space of prison is not enough for the increasing amount of prisoners. To solve this problem, other than increasing the capacity of prison, the court may grant community sentence rather than sending the offenders to prison. When community sentence is granted, the offender would not commit an offence again as they are supervised by officers in certain period. However, if the offender is sent to overcrowding prison, he may influenced by the inmates in the prison causing him more likely to commit crime in the future. Therefore, to solve overcrowding of prison and to reform the offender, community sentence is a better punishment compared to sending them to jail.
In conclusion, the prison is overcrowded so it is better to impose community sentence due to the reasons stated above so as to cope with the overcrowding prison and allowing the offender to reform through community activities rather than locked in prison. The offenders are more likely not committing any crime in the future if community sentence is granted to them.