What is the Difference between Probation and Parole: And How Does It Affect a Jail Term?

Many people who hear the words probation and parole—especially if they’re used in the same sentence—get the two confused. They either think that the two words mean the same thing (they don’t) or that one leads to the other.

In reality, the words refer to entirely different situations.

If you are sentenced to probation, it means that you will be subject to conditions outside of a penal institution which are determined by, and imposed by, the courts. Probation may sometimes be in addition to (but not in lieu of) jail time.

In essence, in probation, you’ve been sentenced to serve the time which you would have otherwise served in jail, under supervision.

Note: You must agree to the probation option, and to all its attendant restrictions.

What Are The Restrictions During Probation?

If you are sentenced to probation, you will be allowed to live in your community. If it has so been so ordered by the court, you will have to check in with your probation officer on a regular basis. He or she will need to be kept abreast of all of your activities during the time when you are serving your probation sentence.

There are also certain curfews which must be adhered to, if you are granted probation.

What Can I Do To Qualify for Probation?

In most cases, the defendant (you) cannot influence the judge who decides whether you will go to jail, or whether you will be granted probation. However, as mentioned previously, you will have to acquiesce to probation.

Usually, the category of your offense (and possibly your past criminal history) determines whether your offense is seen as not being serious enough to warrant placing you behind bars.

If probation is granted, you are in all likelihood not deemed to be a menace to society. Too, in handing down probation, the court is able to exercise a bit more oversight over the perpetrator; to ensure that there is no misbehavior for the period of time during which probation occurs.

What Sort of Restrictions Can Be Expected When A Probation Sentence is Handed Down?

If the court decides to offer you probation, and you accept the terms, you will have to meet with your probation officer as many times as is determined by the court that you do so.

During the meetings, you will be required to report any and all activities, including any contact with law enforcement. There will be restrictions on what you can participate in, imbibe, etc.

What Happens If a Probation is Violated?

If the accused violates any of the rules or restrictions imposed by the courts, he or she will likely be sent back to the courts, and will probably be incarcerated throughout the duration of what would have been the probation sentence.

What Is Parole?

Parole, on the other hand, is a liberty/privilege granted to a defendant who is incarcerated.

Don’t Defendants All Have a Right to Parole, Eventually?

Not necessarily. The Parole Board will review the particulars and will hand down a decision after a hearing. If the defendant is paroled, they are released and allowed to return to the community, where they may serve out the remainder of their sentence. Sometimes this privilege is granted for good behavior exhibited while serving time.

When Is a Defendant First Eligible for Parole?

Upon completion of one-third of their sentence, a defendant is eligible for parole. The exception would be if a minimum sentence of more time than that was handed down, or in the case of an “indeterminate” sentence.

Usually, the case manager assigned to the defendant has him or her fill out and sign an application for parole. The first parole hearing will take place within a few months of the defendant beginning his or her sentence.

What Should I Expect at A Parole Hearing?

Prior to your initial hearing, the Parole Examiner will review the case. At the hearing, you’ll have an opportunity to present the particulars of your case, and you’ll be able to detail your positive activities—what you’ve accomplished, while incarcerated, thus far.

The Commission (Board) will want to hear about what plans you’ve made for release, and how you’ve dealt with, or plan to deal with, any situations or issues which have caused you problems in the past.

Remember that the persons examining you will not only be interested in preserving public safety; they will want to ensure that you’ve made progress and are ready to re-enter society.

I’m Going to Be Eager to Find Work as A Parolee. What Sort of Work Will the Parole Board Be Looking For Me To Do?

The Board is very interested in seeing that parolees find employment, and full-time employment is often considered preferable to part-time work. Also, the Board will want to see you find the kind of work that enables you to remain in one location, as opposed to having to travel.

Keep in mind that, if your case has to do with some sort of violation which was part of a certain type of employment, it will likely be frowned upon if you indicate that you wish to return to such a job. The concern of those who will be deciding the outcome of your appeal will be that you may be placed in an environment which causes you to go astray. There are other opportunities which you might consider, instead, and which you might put forth at your hearing.

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