What Is Probation and How Does It Work?


In 2019, there were over 2 million incarcerated individuals in the United States. Spread between federal institutions, state prisons, and jails, the United States has the highest population of prisoners in the world. 

One of the ways in which to alleviate overcrowding in the American jail system is implementing probation as an incarceration alternative. Inmate facilities are not always necessary and probation allows the offender to carry out their sentence at home, with varying conditions. 

If you’re interested in learning more about probation, we’ve got everything you need to know from sentencing to restrictions. 

Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about probation. 

What Is Probation?

Probation is one of the sentencing options that a judge can decide on for a convicted criminal. 

While the court system has the option of jail or prison, these are the toughest sentencing options for very dangerous crimes. When it comes to misdemeanors or other crimes, probation is an alternative to jail time. 

Probation essentially allows the offender to carry out their sentence at home, with several strict rules and restrictions. In some cases, a judge might order a sentence with some jail time, followed by probation. In other cases, the offender might go straight to their probation sentence. 

Probation might be carried out at a person’s home, a rehab center, or a group facility. 

It is usually an alternative for those who have committed non-violent crimes, or those who are first-time offenders.  

Who Is Involved in Probation?

If you’ve been granted probation, there are several roles involved that not only make the rules and restrictions but that monitor your progress and abidance. Each one plays an important role in ensuring that the sentence is carried out. 

The Court System 

This is the judge who determined the conditions of your probation. They decide the exact rules and parameters including how long you’ll be on probation, where you are allowed to live, who you are allowed to see, and what activities you must refrain from. 

The Probationer 

As the probationer, you are also known as the offender. It is your job to abide by the rules set by the judge if you want to complete your probationary period successfully. 

The Probation Officer 

This is either a state or federal officer who is assigned to monitor your behavior during your probation. They will supervise you and investigate your whereabouts and they will report directly to the judge. 

When Does a Judge Consider Probation and Why?

One of the main goals of probation over prison time is to encourage rehabilitation. 

Once a person becomes part of the prison system, it is difficult to reenter society and reacclimatize to daily norms. Prison time can lead to serious psychological effects due to exposure to violence, solitary confinement, and a lack of rehabilitation programs. 

Probation is a way to ensure that the person maintains a law-abiding status and becomes a productive member of society. With rehabilitation initiatives and reentry programs as part of the conditions of probation, it is much more likely that the offender can be successful during and after their time served. It is also a solution to overcrowding in jails. 

These are common factors that a judge might consider when deciding on a probation sentence: 

  • The severity of the crime 
  • The extent of harm caused to victims involved 
  • The criminal history or the offender 
  • The overall demeanor and level of remorse from the offender
  • The possible effects of incarceration on the offender

When a judge decides on probation for the offender, the conditions often are related to the crime. For a DUI, there will be substance abuse treatment involved in the conditions, for a case of physical violence, the offender will need to take anger management classes.  

What Are the Conditions of Probation?

Although probation sounds like a much more desirable incarceration alternative, there are very serious restrictions involved. 

The conditions vary depending on the severity of the crime, the previous criminal history of the offender, and the discretion of the judge. Ultimately, the aim of probation is to ensure that the offender does not repeat the crime and that they stay away from others who have been convicted of crimes. 

The court decides where you will carry out your sentence. If you share a home or apartment with someone who is has been convicted of a crime, you won’t be able to carry out your sentence there. This might result in a rehab center or a group facility. 

The probation officer also has the right to enter and search your home without notice. 

Here are some common conditions and restrictions during probation: 

  • You must remain at the designated residence 
  • You cannot change your residence without the court’s approval 
  • A judge might set a curfew or other restrictions on your movement 
  • You must maintain communication with your probation officer 
  • A judge can prohibit you from using alcohol or other drugs 
  • You might have mandatory drug and alcohol treatment 
  • You can be served mandatory community service hours 
  • You can be recommended for anger management treatment 
  • You might have to undergo a mental health evaluation 
  • You may need parenting classes
  • You must avoid committing other crimes 
  • You might have driving restrictions 
  • You can be ordered to pay court fines  
  • You will need employment or schooling 

These are just some of the restrictions that can be part of your probation sentence. One of the most common ways that your movement can be restricted is with an electronic monitoring device. 

The ReliAlert XC3 features three-way voice communication, accurate GPS, and reliable durability. This revolutionary technology is a great tool for communication between an offender and the probation officer. 

Probation as an Alternative to Incarceration

While probation is not an option for all crimes, there are many cases where probation might be a better choice for the offender. Depending on the severity of the crime, the threat to society, and the likelihood of a repeat offense, probation can be an effective way to help the offender rehabilitate.

It is important to remember that there are rules and conditions when it comes to probation, especially when it comes to freedom of movement. 

If you’re interested in electronic monitoring devices for probationary purposes, be sure to visit KapaTech for the latest in ankle monitoring technology. 

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