Probation and parole are alternatives to jail but offenders placed on parole or probation must obey certain conditions. But, parole and probation have divergent functions in the criminal justice system. The basics of parole and probation, the usual conditions for a probationer or a parolee to follow, and consequences of probation and parole violations, are explained below:
Probation is a suspended criminal sentence by a judge allowing offenders to remain in the community, on probation. If probation conditions are met, the offender remains out of jail. Some judges sentence criminals to serve some time in jail under probation conditions, prior to release on probation. A non-convicted offender is placed on probation in states permitting deferred sentencing agreements for certain crimes if the offender pleads guilty. If the offender successfully completes probation conditions, criminal charges are dismissed. If the offender violates probation conditions, the court can pursue the guilty plea and sentence the offender.
Types of Probation
There are formal and informal probations. Formal or supervised probation mandates that the offender report back to a probation officer/s. Formal probation is given for all felony and few misdemeanor convictions and charges. Informal or bench/court probation is imposed only in misdemeanor cases with the offender reporting to the court, to make payments for fines/fees, submit proof of completion of community service or treatment and update address change.
Parole is a system of supervised release of prison inmates into the community with time spent on parole is considered part of the sentence. Inmates are released on discretionary parole by a Parole Board decision, or by statute, known as mandatory parole. Offenders serve a major portion of their jail sentence before eligibility for parole release. A parole officer monitors parolee progress in fulfilling parole conditions. Parole assists parolees to re-integrate into the community after being imprisoned and most parole systems rehabilitate criminals while providing safety to the community.
Conditions of Parole and Probation
Whether on probation or on parole, the offenders follow rules, and conditions for terms of probation or parole. Probation and parole conditions are similar. Probation conditions are declared by the court, while parole conditions come from the Parole Board / Department of Corrections, requiring the probationer or parolee to abide by behaviour norms. Conditions for probation and parole vary depending on jurisdiction and nature of offense and some offenses require criminals to comply with harsh additional conditions. A defendant convicted of child molestation is required to report as an indecent offender treatment, and stay away from areas where children congregate in parks, schools, and playgrounds.
Consequences of Probation and Parole Violations
An offender accused of violating probation is entitled to a hearing before a judge who decides on revoking or continuing probation. If probation is revoked, the defendant is sentenced to jail with or without modified conditions. A judge modifies the offender’s conditions, with modifications relating to the violation. Probation Officers impose sanctions if the probationer admits to violations and waives rights to a hearing. Parolees are entitled to a hearing by a Parole Board if accused of violating a parole. Failure to comply with parole conditions returns the offender to prison to complete the original sentence. Parole violations may lead to jail, modification of parole conditions, compulsory community service, house arrest, and electronic surveillance.