The prayers of most if not all convicted defendants are that they are sentenced to probation. Why? Because they will be free from confinement, will work and support their children or families, and not disconnect from society.

Most United States statutes encourage probation as it helps address overcrowding. Especially during a time like this, we have the COVID-19 pandemic; probation makes the best sentences for nonviolent offenders.

 In fact, judges have found themselves with no option other than to opt for probation. The preference for probation over other sentences has made it the most popular form of punishment.

This article discusses the meaning of probation and parole conditions as well as why it is the most preferred.

What is probation?

Probation is a form of punishment in which the convict(s) carries out their sentence in the community rather than in prison or jail. As this form of imprisonment releases the offender to the society, it has to have restrictions to uphold public safety.

A person sentenced to probation is known as a probationer. The probationers meet conditions such as accounting to a probation officer, refraining from substance abuse, traveling out only when with permission, paying fines and submitting restitution, avoiding any crime, and avoiding people likely to be crime victims.

A probationer is under the supervision of a probation officer who, in return, reports to the court.

History of probation

Although probation dates back to the middle ages in the English criminal law, John Augustus is considered the pioneer of probation. In 1841, Mr. Augustus requested a police court in Boston to hand over an offender (an alcoholic ) for his supervision.

Surprisingly, John Augustus supervised the drunkard that the man was sober and reformed during his sentencing ( scheduled three weeks later).  

Probationary Restrictions that come with probation

As stated earlier, probation is a way of letting an offender into the society. So, public safety has to be prioritized. This means that restrictions have to be put in place to limit the probationers’ freedom and make them abide by the law. Below are examples of the restrictions;

  • Follow the law
  • Participating in community service
  • Attending Counseling classes or lessons
  • Pay Fines
  • Jail time
  • Reporting to the probation officer
  • Pay Restitution
  • Restrictions on drugs and alcohol
  • Restrictions on weapons
  • Prohibition of owning a gun or alcohol
  • keeping in touch with probation officers as required
  • regularly taking drug tests.

Violating any of these rules can attract minor or major repercussions. For minor violations will lead to a warning from the probation officer. But for major violations, the probation officer will report the offender to the court for a disciplinary hearing. The court will punish you accordingly.

The work of probation officers

  • Assess the offenders to find out the best course of reformation
  • Equip the convicts with materials to aid in recovery
  • Review treatment options with the probationers
  • Organize treatment plans
  • Guide convicts and track their progress
  • Organize meetings with probationers, their families, and friends
  • Note down the progress of convicts
  • Examine the offender’s past for the court

Difference between probation and parole

Most people believe that probation vs parole are the same. However, the two are different. First, probation is issued by the judge, while the parole board grants parole. Secondly, probation is a sentence by itself, but parole is an early release.

Benefits of probation

Probation is beneficial to both the government and the offender. Its advantages include:

  • There is more freedom than when in prison/jail
  • Keeping in touch with the family and friends
  • A probationer can work and earn a living, unlike those in confinement
  • Cuts costs for the government
  • Offers room for education
  • Help reduce reoffending

Challenges facing probation

Probation is usually underfunded, making its running challenging. Probation officers receive low pay and sometimes get safety threats.


Probation is a common form of sentencing in the United States. It will even continue being popular as the government tries to decongest jails and prisons.

Though probation has strict rules, it allows offenders to work while still serving their terms, keeping in touch with families, and reintegrating with the community.

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