Probation and Parole: A Comparative View

Essay by tenacious_4804University, Bachelor's October 2004

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Probation and parole are the primary alternatives to jails and prisons while there are many similarities between these two systems there are a few obvious differences. One difference is evident in their definitions. Probation is defined as "releasing the convicted offenders into the community under a conditional suspended sentence, avoiding imprisonment, showing good behavior under the supervision of a probation officer" (Black, 1990:1202 cited in Champion, 2005, p. 131). Parole is defined as "the conditional release of a prisoner from (either prison or jail) under supervision after a portion of the sentence has been served (McKean and Raphael, 2002 cited in Champion, 2005, p. 286). The obvious difference is that probationers have the opportunity to avoid incarceration where as parolees are incarcerated first and then have the opportunity for early release from prison after serving a portion of their sentence in prison or jail. The exception to this rule is called Shock Probation which is a relatively new practice that some states have adopted.

The concept of Shock Probation is almost identical in nature to the parole system except Shock Probation sentences the offender to jail not prison. Also, when the offender is sentenced he is led to believe that he is going to serve his entire sentence in jail. Another difference is that probation is usually only available to those who have committed minor offenses while parole is reserved for more serious offenses. Also, the parolees may be subject to more rigid rules to follow while under supervision than probationers and they must abide by these rules in order to avoid being sent back to prison.

Some similarities of the probation and parole systems are that the offenders in these programs have committed crimes and have been found guilty; the offenders have been assigned a probation or parole...