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Punishment – Reintegration of Ex-offenders into the Community (GAMSAT Essay Example)

Consider the following comments and develop a piece of writing in response to one or more of them. Your writing will be judged on the quality of your response to the theme, how well you organise and present your point of view, and how effectively you express yourself.


  1. All punishment is mischief: all punishment in itself is evil.’ – Jeremy Bentham


  1. Hanging is too good for him, said Mr Cruelty.’ – John Bunyan


  1. Punishment is not for revenge, but to lessen crime and reform the criminal.’ – Elizabeth Fry


  1. A Child, punishment by selfish parents, does not feel anger. It goes to its little private corner to weep.’ – Rose Tremain


  1. This is the first of punishments, that no guilty man is acquitted if judged by himself.’ – Juvenal


Suggested Theme: Punishment (Section A)

Time limit in the actual exam: 30 mins

Chosen Quote: ‘Punishment is not for revenge, but to lessen crime and reform the criminal.’ – Elizabeth Fry


Reintegration of ex-offenders into the community


Punishment is one of the purposes of sentencing and may additionally serve instrumental functions, primarily the reduction of crime. Elisabeth Fry states that punishment is not for revenge, but to lessen crime and reform the criminal. The proponents of Fry’s perspective suggest providing more consideration to what the criminal justice system is supposed to achieve. The following dialectics explores a way of transforming oneself – from ex-offenders to ones that can contribute to society.


Punishment can entail in a variety of ways, and the severity of a sentence depends on individual circumstances. There are four most common theories of punishment; retribution, deterrence, incapacitation and rehabilitation. International law now prohibits torturous retribution and deterrence, thus incapacitation as a punishment has remained the standard practice in the justice system for most counties.


According to the Institute of Public Affair’s report, the cost of the incapacitation – putting one person behind bars – is over $100K in Australia, which is a waste of taxpayer’s money and hurting the socio-economic financial circulations with no return for investment. Additionally, the research suggests that more than half of released prisoners return to corrections within two years for reoffending; demonstrating recidivism. Thus, it indicates that prisons are not adequately prepared many prisoners for life after prison.


Rehabilitation, in contrast, is not only beneficial for the socio-economy but also for the convicted criminals themselves, and ultimately for the community as a whole. The proposed idea is a paradigm shift from ‘how to keep people locked up’ to ‘ how to keep people out successfully’; thus, the criminals should come out being better when they come out, not being worse. For example, the Delancey Street Foundation – a non-profit organisation located in San Francisco, provides one of the most recognised and successful residential rehabilitation services for substance abusers and convicted criminals. Their approach includes the focus on comprehensive academic learning from high school to higher education, and vocational and social training through various volunteer activities.


It is essential to recognise that the opportunities have to outweigh the obstacles. Any individual deserves a second chance with a will to take responsibility and to change for the better. Restitution and reintegration provide a win-win solution for all parties with a ray of hope for the criminals – transforming them into role model citizens rather than isolating them from society. It evokes a forward-facing connotation to the construction of the criminal justice system rather than remaining daunting.


Feedback from METC Institute


Grade: 50/100


Engagement with the chosen topic:

The student shows a clear understanding of their quote, topic, and the central ideas of this prompt. Their thesis statement could be clearer, however, the quote is included well in the introduction. The analysis done is basic and does cover the surface topic.


Knowledge and thought:

The student does provide some secondary evidence however this is rather weak. The information regarding recidivism rates and the Delancey foundations are good examples but the rest of the essay is lacking. Several pieces of information is incorrect and the quotes provided are questionable. As a result, the essay feels unsubstantiated.


Structure of the Essay:

The essay does not follow the thesis-antithesis-synthesis structure that is suggested in the course notes. The essay feels disjointed and there is a lack of flow. There is no antithesis which is not advisable.



The overall meaning is never in doubt but there are frequent minor errors in grammar and vocabulary choices that distract the reader and detract from the clarity of the argumentation.


Overall Analysis:

Overall, the student has demonstrated a reasonable grasp of the issues and has presented a relatively clear, despite the lack of an antithesis statement and frequent errors. Better use of supporting evidence, and more precision when making assertions would improve the argument.


General Suggestions:

Review the thesis-antithesis-synthesis structure in your course notes. Back up every claim you make with secondary evidence that is detailed, specific, and from a reliable source. Try and look deeper into your topic and engage with some of its more complex details.


Feedback from AceGAMSAT


Grade: 61/100


I have read quite a few of your essays at this point so please understand the advice I am about to offer. I think it is very important that you address, in addition to learning more about the specific format for Task A and B for section two, how to improve your expression in terms of your vocabulary and grammar. There are many resources available for this. I recommend that you check out the grammar channel available through Khan Academy. I also think you should build your vocabulary. Often you misuse words in terms of their typical context or meaning.


What is intriguing about your writing is its scope and ambition. When the reader has a better grasp of your intentions I am quite confident that they will respond positively to many of the interesting points you are attempting to make.


I also feel you need to try and make sure the focus of each paragraph is clear for the reader. Oftentimes it seems you tend to go off on tangents. The limited word count for your essays means that this is definitely not an advisable approach.


Feedback from the Gold Standard GAMSAT


Grade: 68/100


General Comments:

A good essay that addresses the theme of the quotes directly. However, as with previous submissions, the thesis statement does not accurately reflect the content.


Thought and Content:

As noted and as with the previous essay, there is a disconnect between the thesis statement and the content of the essay. You will need to work on this as it seems to be a recurring issue. This essay is not about personal transformation, it is about the benefits of incapacitation versus rehabilitation. Granted, one would hope that transformation would follow rehabilitation, but it isn’t directly addressed.


Your analysis and observation on the subject are interesting and logical. It’s also worth noting though that as long as there is a ‘for profit’ prison system, such as is the case in the US, there will be no attempts at rehab, What is needed is more of the Delancey Street approach and other supports. We agree wholeheartedly that this is the better approach in all (or at least most) situations.


Language and Structure:

Again, as with the previous essay, the structure here is excellent. The arguments and the conclusion are made clearly and logically. Obviously, you understand the purpose and structure required for this essay.


One reminder though – if you are using a quote directly, as you have with the Fry quote in the introduction, that you use ‘quotation marks’ to signify that.


Other Comments:

Work on aligning the thesis with the content of the essay.



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