Academic Writing – Task 2, Opinion Essay

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      Academic Writing Task 2

      Some people believe that there should be fixed punishments for each type of crime. Others, however, argue that the circumstances of an individual crime, and the motivation for committing it, should always be taken into account when deciding on the punishment.

      Which of these opinions do you agree with and why?

      Recent years have seen a tendency toward mandatory punishments for different types of crime. The value of this strategy is being hotly debated with many people thinking punishments should reflect the reasons and conditions under which wrongdoings occur. I, too, believe that each crime should be judged objectively with individual circumstances being given their due.

      Mandatory sentencing sends a strong message to the community that crime will not be tolerated. It also ensures courts waste little time deliberating over inconsequential or irrelevant issues. This leads to budgetary savings and a potentially efficient legal system where otherwise innocent people do not spend a long time in detention waiting for their case to be heard.

      That said, mandatory sentencing has many potential detrimental outcomes. Deciding the punishment of a crime based purely on the nature of the crime, may lead to people being harshly punished for circumstances out of their control. For instance, mental illness is at the root of many violent crimes. If the root cause of a crime is neglected a person suffering a mental illness may be punished for being sick. Further, if you stole food because you were hungry and had no money, you may be punished for simply being poor. There are many mitigating circumstances which contribute to criminal behavior. These need to be taken into consideration when courts punish offenders.

      In summary, mandatory sentencing is on the increase; however, mandatory punishments may unfairly punish people, who may be the victim of circumstances outside of their immediate control. For this reason, I strongly disagree with mandatory punishments. My opinion is that the punishment for a crime should be made up based on all the factors leading up to the unlawful action rather than providing judgement based on the classification of crimes into types.

      Paragraph 1.
      Rephrase the question.
      State your opinion clearly.

      Paragraph 2.
      To be balanced indicate that you understand why fixed punishments are considered and the social benefits they may offer.

      Paragraph 3.
      Refute or agree with the proposition and give reasons in support of you opinion.

      Paragraph 4.
      Summarize the proposition and your opinion. Be succinct.


      Helpful Reading

      What Are the Pros of Mandatory Minimum Sentences?

      1. It helps to eliminate personal bias.
      In the United States, 300 million people will each have a unique opinion on any given subject. This is true in the justice system just as much as it is with any other subject. Mandatory minimum sentences help to create a standard of justice that is equally applied to all parties who are charged with the same crime.

      2. It eliminates the sympathy factor.
      Although everybody deserves a fair chance, having a sentence that is too lenient almost makes it seem like an offender gets away with the crime. By instituting mandatory minimum sentences, there is a guarantee that sentences are uniform throughout the justice system so that offenders are punished based on their overall moral culpability.

      3. It may lead to a decrease in crime.
      When mandatory minimum sentences were first installed in the US justice system in the 1980’s, there was a significant drop in crime across all categories as these sentences were handed down.

      What Are the Cons of Mandatory Minimum Sentences?

      1. It shifts the personal bias.
      Sentencing used to be in the hands of a judge or jury. With mandatory minimum sentences, a guilty verdict means that the prosecutor is in more control of the sentence that offender receives. They can choose whether or not to charge them the crime that carries a minimum mandatory sentence.

      2. It creates an environment of coercion.
      When low-level offenders are threatened with a high level mandatory sentence, they will often say or do anything to get out of spending multiple years in prison. The theory is that these mandatory minimums can help law enforcement officials move up the chain of command in organized crime, but the accuracy of the information that they receive may be questionable.

      3. Some cases create unjust sentences.
      A desperate mother of four once was paid $100 to mail an unknown package to someone. It contained 232 g of crack cocaine and a judge sentenced her to a 10 year mandatory minimum sentence because the law dictated what had to be done even though the judge felt it irrational and unjust.

      Any system of justice that is created is going to have flaws and imperfections. The goal of minimum mandatory sentences is a worthy one to attempt to achieve. If we are willing to take the pros and cons together and find a middle ground, then we can create sentencing guidelines that have common sense areas of exceptions so that justice can always be found.


      Read the pros and cons, watch the above video then try to write your own essay.

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