Parole vs. Probation

Although the terms parole and probation are often confused, they are two very different concepts based in the same idea — an offender is not confined to a correctional facility. The circumstances surrounding the individual’s release into society is where the differences lie.

An offender may be sentenced to probation instead of serving any jail or prison time. Along with probation comes strict guidelines that must be followed by the offender or else she runs the risk of being sent to jail or prison anyway.

Some of the most common probation requirements include the following:

  • Check in with probation officer
  • Attend drug/alcohol rehabilitation
  • Attend counseling or therapy sessions
  • Apply for employment and/or keep a job

Many judges sentence offenders to community service as well; with community service, the offender must complete a certain number of hours to satisfy the sentence.

Parole, on the other hand, is the conditional release from prison. With parole, the offender has already served some time in a correctional facility and requests an early release dependent upon certain conditions that must be met in order for the offender to stay out of prison.

There is no set time limit a person must serve before requesting parole, although the specific minimum time is often set within the sentence itself. When the opportunity arrives, an inmate goes before a parole board to plead his case on why conditional release would be a good idea — that is, that he is not a threat to society and that he has obeyed and respected the prison’s rules while behind bars.

Parole often has many conditions attached, which may include any or all of the following:

  • Check in with parole officer
  • Hold down a job
  • Commit no more crimes
  • Attend drug/alcohol rehabilitation
  • Attend anger management or other counseling/therapy sessions
  • Don’t associate with other convicted criminals

If you’d like to learn about probation and/or parole and how they may impact your particular situation, you should contact an experienced criminal lawyer in your area for further advice.

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