Difference Between Probation and Parole

Probation and parole are privileges provided to convicted criminals subject to good behaviour.


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However, knowing the difference between the two terms is essential for an offender to know what action they must take and the period that may affect them.

Key Takeaways

  1. Probation is a court-ordered sanction that allows an offender to serve their sentence in the community under supervision instead of serving time in prison.
  2. Parole is the conditional release of an offender from prison before the end of their sentence, allowing them to serve the remainder of their sentence in the community under supervision.
  3. Both probation and parole aim to promote rehabilitation and reintegration into society, but probation is an alternative to incarceration, while parole is an early release from prison.

Probation vs Parole

The difference between probation and parole is that Probation is a type of sentence for an offender where he is convicted without having to serve time in prison. A parole is an early release from prison for an inmate without the conclusion of his jail term.

Probation vs Parole

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The purpose behind probation and parole is to rehabilitate the criminal to reduce the probability that the offender will commit crimes in the future.

However, both probation and parole are granted to the offender based on certain conditions that must be fulfilled. Noncompliance with this condition could result in the revocation of the privilege.


Comparison Table

Parameter of ComparisonProbationParole
DefinitionProbation is a part of the sentence where the person is allowed out of jail in society while following specific rules and conditions.Parole is an early release from prison for an offender who has served only a part of his original sentence.
Who determines eligibility?The judge determines whether a defendant should get probation or not.It is determined by an independent board that considers several factors before granting parole.
Primary DifferenceIt is part of a criminal sentence.It is after the release from prison.
ProcedureIt is part of the initial sentence.It is much later, allowing a person early release from prison.
Person convictedThe offender pleaded guilty to a misdemeanour.The offender pleaded guilty to felonies.


What is Probation?

Probation is the timeframe during which the person is not sent to prison. When an offender receives probation, instead of sending them to jail, the judge gives them an opportunity to rehabilitate.

If the offenders do everything as instructed by the judge and follow all the conditions laid down, then they will not be sent to prison to complete their sentence.

Even though the defendant is not sent to prison, they must follow specific terms and conditions. These could be curfew rules, participation in rehabilitation programs and carrying out drug tests at regular intervals etc.

A probation officer monitors probation. The officer keeps an eye on the progress of the defendant and files a report with the judge.

If the judge is not impressed by the progress of the defendant, the judge may require the defendant to return to the court for final sentencing.

After the sentencing, the offender has to serve time in prison.


What is Parole?

Parole is the period of time after which a convicted person is released from prison. The prisoner is released from prison before the conclusion of the sentence. The conditions set down in parole are almost similar to those imposed under probation.

The conditions imposed under probation could be, that offender must meet the parole officer on schedule, conditions imposed on alcohol and drug use, remaining at the same residence and maintaining employment etc.

A parole officer manages parole. The parole officer explains the terms and conditions of the parole to the defendant and monitors his progress.

If the defendant fails to comply with the terms and conditions, then the parole officer could report to the board granting parole.

The board may, after reviewing the case, order the defendant to return to prison to complete his sentence.


Main Differences Between Probation and Parole

Probation and parole are quite similar in some ways, but only one could happen based on the circumstances of the case. Therefore a defendant needs to know the difference between the two.

These are the main differences between probation and parole.

  1. Probation is usually part of the initial sentence where the person is allowed to spend his sentence within the community. In contrast, parole occurs at the end of the sentence to convert the remaining time of the sentence into a program that benefits the community.
  2. The terms and conditions imposed in probation are harsh, whereas parole has fewer limitations for the defendant.
  3.  The judge decides the terms and conditions imposed during probation, whereas the parole board decides the terms and conditions imposed during parole.
  4. Probation is managed by a probation officer, whereas a parole officer manages parole.
  5. The destiny of a defendant in case of probation is decided by a judge, whereas a parole board decides on granting parole to a prisoner.
  6. Probation is an alternative sentence, whereas parole is a privilege granted to convicts after having served a part of their sentence subject to good behaviour.
  7. Probation is solely based on the decision of the judge. In contrast, community members are allowed to speak before the board responsible for deciding to grant a defendant parole.
  8. Probation officer deals with convicted criminals who have not gone to jail, whereas parole officer deals with convicted criminals who have served a part of their sentence.
  9. A person granted probation has mixed feelings because, on the one hand, they’ve been convicted, but on the other hand, they don’t need to serve any jail time, whereas a person granted parole is happy because he or she is released from prison.
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  1. https://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/abs/10.1086/449215
  2. https://www.prisonlegalnews.org/media/publications/bjs%20parole%20and%20probation%202004.pdf
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