Parole and Probation

What is the Difference between Parole and Probation?

Facing the possibility of incarceration or anticipating release from prison can sometimes involve similar issues. This most frequently occurs in two situations: It often happens when a judge does not sentence a defendant to jail time but instead decides that Court ordered supervision is the best public policy decision. The second most common occurrence is when a defendant is released to jail time but passes an evaluation that qualifies him for release from prison using the parole release process.


Parole vs Probation: What is the Difference?

The parole and probation departments of a municipality or state are essentially the same thing. Parole is the temporary release of a prisoner. The prisoners sign an agreement concerning their parole conditions in order to be released from prison early. The parole conditions consist of many hypertechnical obligations that can usually be defined at any time by the parole officer.


Types of Parole

Most parole is essentially for showing remorse and good behavior. However, there are a few other types of parole that don’t turn on good behavior, work credits, or other statutory eligibility. These may be granted by the courts for compassionate or medical release, or if the court decided at the time of sentencing to impose additional parole conditions after the completion of imprisonment.


The Parole Release Process: Reasons Why Prisoners Accept Parole

Most prisoners are happy to accept the numerous conditions of parole because they think that the worst that can happen is that they will be sent back to jail. In that event, they simply finish their term or get hit with a violation that defers parole reconsideration for a period of years or months.


However, parole is regarded as a temporary release of a prisoner. Many problems can and do occur. Prisoners who commit a new crime while on parole may be hit with additional penalties that would not apply if they weren’t on parole. This is also defined in the agreement that few prisoners take the time to read.


Parole and Probation Conditions

Parole and probation may require you to have a steady and approved living arrangement before you are eligible. You may be released to a halfway house if you have addiction problems, a hospital, or a homeless shelter in some cases.
The conditions of parole release often require you to meet with your parole officer at his discretion, live in areas approved by parole, maintain sobriety, meet a specific curfew, refrain from contact with certain people, limit your travel, and additionally to obtain and maintain a job within a set period of time.


Parole and probation conditions can be relatively open-ended to allow parole and probation officers the opportunity to micromanage your life. They may require that you wear a GPS monitor and warn you that any police contact can land you back in prison on a whim. In parole proceedings, there is no real due process because you waive a lot of due process protections like unlawful search and seizure and can be locked up on the word of a parole officer regarding conditions that you failed to meet.


When you are on probation, you usually have to follow similar guidelines as a parolee but often with greater intensity and micromanagement. You risk being sent to the county jail for a probation violation. In these instances, there are minimal due process protections in place with Gagnon hearings that give you an opportunity to rebut clearly erroneous violations and plead with a judge for leniency.
Most defendants are encouraged to waive the dispute hearings though and simply take what is called a “hit” of imprisonment in the county jail for a few months or years. Because you have the opportunity to present your side through a lawyer and before a judge, there is more flexibility and independent objectiveness.


What is the Purpose of Parole?

Parole is intended to break a pattern of behavior that is deemed dangerous to the public at large. The prisons are often overwhelmed with offenders and do not have space to punish people for less serious offenses.


What is the Purpose of Parole After a Sentence is Completed?

In theory, after-incarceration parole may be used as the means of integrating and helping prisoners adjust back to life in the outside world. A parole program puts the structure in the lives of prisoners and may force them to sober up or resist lifestyle choices.


Parole vs Probation: Which is the Better Choice?

Although probation is merely court-ordered supervision that may help you avoid prison, initially, a probation sentence can be resentenced to a full incarceration term of equal length. For this reason, defendants should proceed with caution when they are offered years of probation. One serious probation violation may be enough to trigger resentencing.

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