What Are the Differences Between Probation and Parole?

probation and parole

In 2018, an estimated 4.5 million people were on probation or parole nationwide. While this represents only a fraction of the people who are doing time for a criminal offense, there is a distinction that makes both the people who are on probation and those who are on parole somewhat similar. Both parole and probation are separate from jail time. That being said, both still come with a set of requirements and various degrees of supervision. 

Because these two systems seem to bear quite a few resemblances, it can be difficult to spot the differences. 

To alleviate confusion and shed light on the subject, let’s talk about those differences. Keep reading to find out more about the difference between probation and parole. 

What Is Probation?

If someone is on probation, it entails that they are an adult criminal offender fulfilling a type of sentence. The conditions and timeframe of probation are set by a court of law and is often used instead of incarceration (time in prison). That being said, there are some courts that decide on a “split sentence,” which requires a defendant to spend some time in prison and some time on probation. 

What Is Parole?

If someone is on parole, it means that they have been released from prison before the end of their original sentence is up. However, this early release is conditional and typically involves a decision passed down from a parole board. Those who are on parole (referred to as parolees) are generally assigned a supervision status ranging from active to inactive, which determines how often they need to check in with their parole officer. 

Probation and Parole: Similarities

The reason that so many people confuse probation and parole is that the actual conditions of these two sentences tend to look very similar. They may include a curfew, rehabilitation requirements, community service requirements, and the payment of fees and fines. They may also include check-ins with designated officers, location monitoring via tracking devices, restrictions on travel, drug and alcohol tests, and more.

Ultimately, both of these sentences are designed to break the habits that led the defendant to criminal activity. The conditions of sentencing must have direct relevance to the defendant’s crimes and behaviors. 

For example, someone convicted of child abuse is often restricted from going within a certain distance of playgrounds, schools, and other areas that children frequent. Someone who was convicted of a non-violent crime would not generally have this kind of restriction, as their past behaviors are unrelated to the restriction.  

Probation and Parole: Key Differences

In discussing the similarities between probation and parole, we can see why confusion often arises. To clear up that confusion, let’s take a look at some of the key differences.

We’ve already discussed the difference between when someone may be sentenced to probation versus parole. However, the differences don’t stop there. Keep reading to learn more.

Objective of Sentence

As we mentioned earlier, the primary objective of both probation and parole is to break the bad habits of a convicted individual. Strict conditions are set in place both for the sake of the individual and for the sake of the community at large. In other words, these conditions are considered necessary until an individual appears to have broken those habits that led to their crimes. 

One key difference here is that parole has the added element of reintegration. Because parolees are coming from time spent in prison, it is assumed that adjusting to life outside of prison will require help, resources, and time. Some parolees are asked to move into a halfway home during this period of reintegration while others may be allowed to move into their own home or live with a relative. 

Who Sets Conditions of Sentence

The conditions of probation are set in court, which means that the defendant is typically entitled to their own attorney as well as a jury of unbiased individuals. Once the initial conditions are set, the judge is able to modify or amend these conditions. This is typically done for two reasons: good behavior (which leads to a lightened sentence) or probation violation (which leads to a harsher sentence).

The conditions of parole may be set in two ways. The first and more common is through the meeting of a parole board who reviews the incarcerated person’s criminal records as well as their behavior during incarceration. It may also occur as the result of provisions of a related statute. 

In the case of someone who is up for parole, they will find that they do not have some of the same protections as someone who is up for probation. Setting the conditions of parole is considered an administrative proceeding, rather than a criminal proceeding. Potential parolees generally do not receive the aid of an attorney and there is no jury to weigh in on their fate.

Consequences of a Violation of Sentence

If someone violates the conditions of their probation, they are required to return to court. The judge has options ranging from lengthening the time of probation to requiring time in jail or prison.

If a parolee fails to meet the conditions of their parole or commit another crime, they are generally sent back to prison. 

Equip Your Probation and Parole Officers With the Best Technology

In spite of their differences, both probation and parole share the objective of rehabilitating criminal offenders. Probation officers and parole officers are tasked with ensuring that those they supervise are adequately serving their sentences. Having the best technology makes that task much easier.

Become a partner of Kapa Technologies and access high-performance tracking devices and free shipping. By filling out our contact sheet, you can find out more about our company and become a partner right away. 

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