Parole & Probation

Overview

Probation and parole are privileges which allow criminals to avoid prison or to be released from prison after serving only a portion of their sentences. The goals of probation and parole are to rehabilitate offenders and guide them back into society while minimizing the likelihood that they will commit a new offense.

Probation

A judge may grant probation as an alternative to imposing a jail sentence. Probation is ordered when the circumstances and seriousness of the crime suggest that the probationer is not a threat to society and that incarceration is not an appropriate punishment. The probationer may freely live in the community, but must abide by certain conditions of probation for a period of time specified by the court and and report regularly to an appointed probation officer. General conditions of probation may include living where directed, participating in rehabilitation programs, submitting to drug and alcohol tests and maintaining employment. Probationers may be required to show proof to the court that they have complied with all conditions of probation. If a probationer fails to comply with all required conditions, the court may revoke probation and require the probationer to serve a jail sentence.

Parole

Parole is granted after an offender has served a portion of his or her prison sentence. Thus, parole differs from probation in that it is not an alternative sentence, but rather a privilege granted to some prisoners after a percentage of their sentence has been served. Parolees must abide by certain terms and conditions while they are on parole. These terms include living within state or county lines, meeting regularly with a parole officer, submitting to drug and alcohol tests, and providing proof of residence and employment. If a parolee violates the conditions of parole, his parole will be revoked and he will be re-imprisoned.

Parole Eligibility

Most states limit parole to inmates convicted of certain crimes who have served a certain percentage of their sentence. For instance, offenders who have been convicted of first degree murder, kidnapping, rape, arson, or drug trafficking are generally not eligible for parole. For other offenders, the parole board will consider each inmate's personal characteristics, such as age, mental stability, marital status and prior criminal record. Parole boards do not grant parole to offenders simply for "good behavior" exhibited during incarceration. The parole board will also consider the nature and severity of the offense committed, the length of sentence served and the inmate's degree of remorse for the offense. Finally, the parole board will examine the inmate's ability to establish a permanent residence and obtain gainful employment upon release. Parole will be granted if there is no apparent threat to public safety and the inmate is willing and able to re-enter the community.

Fourth Amendment Rights

The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution protects the public from unlawful searches and seizures by law enforcement officers. However, this protection does not extend to those on probation and parole. The homes of those on probation and parole can; however, be searched at any time without a search warrant. If drugs, weapons or other paraphernalia is found that violates the conditions of probation or parole, those items may be seized and used in evidence against the offender. In addition to revocation of probation or parole, the offender may face additional criminal charges for possessing the drugs, weapons or other paraphernalia recovered during the search.