Whether we have had personal experience with the legal world or only heard the words in TV shows and movies, most people are familiar with the terms parole and probation.
However, possibly due to them starting with the same letter, the terms are often confused.
There were a reported 4.5 million people either on parole or probation in 2018 which is over twice the amount of people there are in jail. But is their fate the same?
Let us break down all you need to know about the differences between parole vs probation.
What Is Parole?
Let us start with the biggest defining factor of parole.
Parole is granted to someone who is already in jail. When sentenced depending on the state, the judge may give a sentence that allows for the defendant to be released early.
By no means is this a given though.
The decision lies at the hands of the parole board, who will take into account the nature of the initial crime and how rehabilitated the individual has become. If the person is deemed as having the potential of becoming an upstanding member of society the board may grant parole. If not, most commonly the board decides to send them back to serve their time for another year when their case will be considered again.
When granted parole it does not mean that the person is scot-free.
The parole board will likely mandate certain, often strict, terms that the person needs to abide by. The most common is the persons need to regularly report to a parole officer who will monitor them. If this or other terms are not followed and you were to violate parole, be it jumping a red light, receiving a judgement lien, or committing a serious crime, you may have to serve some of your remaining jail time.
What Is Probation?
Probation on the other hand happens when someone is just convicted for an offense but are yet to serve jail time. The judge on the case may seek leniency for several reasons and decide to suspend the sentence and not send a person to prison.
But again this doesn’t mean the person can run for the hills, breath a sigh of relief, and put the whole saga behind them.
Being on probation involves having to adhere to certain terms once more, which may include doing some community service or going into rehab. They will also have to report to a probation officer who has the responsibility to monitor the person.
The biggest weight on the shoulder of someone on probation however is their suspended sentence, which will hang over them until they have been taken off probation.
Regardless of the time you have been on probation, be it 6 months or 6 years, if you were to violate the terms of your probation then the full suspended sentence can come back into full effect, depending on your misdemeanor.
Similar But Very Different
As we have seen, while they have similar names and could happen to similar types of people the consequences are quite different. Parole provides light at the end of the tunnel to prisoners serving out their sentence, whereas probation can give someone a new start without seeing jail time.
We hope that this explanation was clear and you liked it. If you did be sure to check out our other great legal content on our site.