What’s the Difference Between Probation and Parole? Probation vs Parole

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Probation vs Parole

In criminal law, both parole & probation occur as an alternative to imprisonment, but if you’re wondering is there a difference between Probation and Parole, there sure is! So let’s check out the subtle differences between the two terms.

While sentencing a person found guilty, the court or criminal system has several options. One of them is probation, whereas another one is parole. Both are conditional releases of people who have been found guilty by the court.

What is Probation?

If someone is in some kind of trouble with the legal system or the criminal system, he may be imprisoned or he might be placed on probation.

  • If the legal system finds someone is guilty of a crime, the court system sometimes sanctions or allows the person to continue remaining in the community, instead of being imprisoned.
  • However, a probation officer will continue to supervise the person on probation.
  • All offenses are not eligible for probation, as in many types of offences, the guilty person or offender is imprisoned without having the option of probation at all.
  • During probation, the defendant (person found guilty) must follow certain rules ordained by the court.
  • The amount of probation time depends on the crime committed and the state laws. It could last from one year to up to 3 years or even for a lifetime.

For instance, a judge could sentence a defendant to 6 months of imprisonment and then probate it to 5 years. This means that the defendant will be living in the community on probation for a period of 5 years instead of spending 6 months time in jail.

Conditions for Probation

Conditions for Probation
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  • Doing some community service.
  • Meeting the probation officer regularly.
  • Keeping away from illegal drugs, over drinking.
  • Not visiting specific places or meeting specific people.
  • Not going out of the state without specific permission.
  • Appearing in court whenever necessary or requested to do so.
  • Paying fines to victims, if ordained.
  • Obeying all laws, including traffic laws, jaywalking etc.
  • If the defendant violates any condition, the probation can be revoked and the original sentence will be imposed.

The conditions change according to the nature of the crime. For instance, as part of the treatment for a person guilty of a substance abuse, he might have to submit to regular drug testing or even be asked to attend a rehab program.

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What is Parole?

Parole is a freedom, either temporary or permanent, from imprisonment for an inmate after completing the sentence fully or partially. The person is called parolee. However, he is subject to certain conditions. If he does not follow these conditions, he can be imprisoned again.

  • The intention is to support and supervise the prisoner so that he is able to adjust in the community after being released from prison, instead of directly returning to the community after completing the sentence.
  • The purpose of parole is to increase safety of the community by supervising the prisoner even after he has finished serving the sentence.
  • Prisoners must apply to the prison Board, which will grant or deny it and also specify the conditions of the parole.

Types of Parole

Discretionary and Mandatory Parole

  • In case of discretionary parole, the inmate is released early or before the sentence period, and serves the rest of the sentence under supervision outside of prison living in the community.
  • Mandatory parole comes not before, but after the prisoner has served the sentence completely.

Conditions of Parole

The inmate released on parole enjoys certain liberties, though there are certain conditions. If he/she violates these conditions, they can land back in prison.

  • He has to avoid criminal activities and any contact with victims.
  • Keep away from drugs and alcohol.
  • Attend recovery meetings (in case of drug or alcohol abuse).
  • Cannot leave a specific geographical area without prior permission from the court.
  • Meet the parole officer periodically.

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Key Difference Between Probation and Parole

  • In probation, the defendant’s sentence is suspended and he/she is allowed to remain in the community under supervision and subject to conditions. In case of parole, the prisoner is released early before the sentence period has expired and serves the remaining part of the sentence in the community, again subject to conditions and good behavior.
  • A probation is an alternative to being imprisoned. On the other hand, a parole is a release from jail after the sentence has been served.
  • The court decides whether to grant probation, whereas the parole board decides whether parole can be granted to the prisoner.
  • Probation takes place before imprisonment, whereas parole takes place after the imprisonment and after the convict has served his sentence at least partially.
  • A probation is usually granted to first time offenders and juvenile criminals, whereas parole is granted to prisoners who have served their sentence.
  • The person on probation reports to his assigned probation officer, whereas the one on parole has to report to the assigned parole officer.

Wrap Up – Probation vs Parole Difference

If you are living in a housing project where there is a lot of crime or where there are several gangs, you might have to be extra careful. You might meet many inmates on parole or find defendants going for drug rehabilitation or for community service, as they are on parole or on  probation.

Both probation and parole are rights given to the defendant and the convict respectively, allowing them to live in the community either before or after serving a part of their sentence. The two rights are given conditionally and they are under supervision by parole and probation officers. It prepares them for living a normal life in the community and reduces the chances of committing the same crime or a new crime.

The conditions of parole and probation also vary according to the type of crime, the age of the defendant, and so on. However, in both the cases, the person must adhere to particular conduct and behavior rules while living in the community. The Fourth Amendment of the US constitution is not applicable to those on parole or probation, as the police can search their vehicles, property etc. without a search warrant.

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