What is the proper term used for punishment where the guilty person is sentenced to community service?

  • 3
    'community service' is a common name for such a punishment.
    – Mitch
    Commented May 17, 2012 at 16:28

3 Answers 3


A 'non-custodial sentence', perhaps?

There is a wide range of non custodial sentences which a court may give to adult offenders, including:

  • a fine
  • a probation order or community service order (or a combination of both)
  • conditional or absolute discharge, if this is appropriate

Non custodial sentences for young offenders include

  • an attendance centre order
  • a community responsibility order
  • a youth conference order

Source: http://www.nidirect.gov.uk/non-custodial-sentences

  • Not really, because this doesn't imply community service, as you explain.
    – Jez
    Commented May 17, 2012 at 14:53
  • Isn't "a probation order or community service order (or a combination of both)" community service? Commented May 17, 2012 at 15:06
  • Yes, but as you mention it can also mean a fine or a discharge or (perhaps I'd say) a curfew.
    – Jez
    Commented May 17, 2012 at 15:11
  • Does that matter at all? Does that mean that community service is not a non custodial sentence? Commented May 17, 2012 at 16:07
  • The sentence to do community service is imposed by a Community Service Order and is a non-custodial sentence. There aren't any other choices. If you have to specify community service, then use "community service".
    – Andrew Leach
    Commented May 17, 2012 at 16:13

I think the best term for this is 'compulsory community service' or simply 'community service.'

Words like 'restitution' or 'amends' might be useful here as well (though not necessarily) as might be the phrase 'pay your debt to society,' though that phrase is used to mean serve out any sentence, not just community service.


One general term for this type of alternative sentencing in the US judicial system is diversion programs of which community service is one option:

Diversionary programs emphasize counseling, treatment, and behavior modification over punitive measures. Often, participants must agree to attend classes and vocational training, participate in individual or group therapy or counseling, perform community service work, make restitution to any victim, and pay fines.

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