Criminal Law is considered a branch of law that is responsible for dealing with crimes committed against public authority and where penalties are applicable (AbadPinsky 58). In other words, it is a penal law involving the prosecution of behaviors considered to be a crime. Criminal law usually includes criminal procedures related to charging, trying, sentencing, and imprisonment of individuals convicted of a crime (Champion 28). Apart from regulating the manner in which suspects are investigated, charged, and later tried in a court of law, Criminal Law also incorporates those decisions by appellate courts meant to define as well as interpret criminal law while regulating criminal procedure where clear legislated guidelines are not in existence (Hoffman 12).
The main purpose of Criminal Law is to limit human behavior through the guidance of their conduct (Whitehead & Strathman 101). Those found guilty of committing crimes against individuals or property are punished or penalized by Criminal Law. Once convicted, suspects are imprisoned to serve terms set by the courts of law. However, an inmate may be released before his term in prison has ended or once tried in a court of law, be sent out to do community service instead of being jailed (Abadinsky 59).
The majority of individuals are not well versed with the terms probation and parole as they tend to believe that they mean the same thing but applied differently.
Probation can be defined as a sentence passed on by a judge in a court of law instead of serving time even though in some few cases it is in addition to the time served in jail (Champion 31). Probation usually allows the convicted individuals to continue living in the community for a specified period but while being monitored by a probation officer (Abadinsky 60). First-time offenders are most likely to get probation as compared to those who have committed crimes more than twice. Additionally, given the fact that the majority of America’s prisons are becoming more and more overcrowded, rehabilitation by law courts of some of these criminals who are not perceived as a major threat to society is carried out by placing them on probation (Whitehead & Strathman 102).
Probation is usually found in two different categories for instance supervised probation and unsupervised probation. Under supervised probation, being the most common among the two, the convicted individual is required to pay all fines and expenses incurred during his/her trial (Abadinsky 61). Once they have done so, they are required to make weekly reports to their probation officer who also makes a report on certain conditions as issued by the judge (Hoffman 22).
The individual on probation is also expected to keep off trouble and try finding some form of employment. The convicted person is then to give regular reports to his probation officers as to where he is working, the phone number of the place of work in addition to how many hours he will need to work in case the probation officer needs to verify his story (Champion 43). In other words, the probation officer’s main responsibility is to ensure that the convicted individual on probation is serving his time in the community as per the requirements and is also staying out of any form of trouble lest his probation be cut short and he is returned to jail.
On the other hand, unsupervised probation is whereby the convicted individual is not required to report to a probation officer even though certain other stipulations are in existence (Abadinsky 62). For instance, the individual will still be required to pay fines, court fees, and any other expenses incurred in the course of his trial but not to report anything.
The convicted person might also be expected to perform specified hours of community service wherein in case he is arrested for anything while under unsupervised probation, his probation will be revoked (Whitehead & Strathman 103). In such a scenario, the convicted person on unsupervised probation is usually not informed of the revocation of his probation as their time could already be up completely by the time of their arrest indicating failure to follow through with the original conditions laid down for their probation (Abadinsky 63).
Parole is somehow similar to probation in that it is considered a system that grants a prisoner release prior to their having served their full sentence in jail and is granted as per the reports by prison and probation staff (Hoffman 29). In other words, parole can only be granted depending on the degree of offenses committed by the prisoner, their plans for release, and the manner in which they behave while in prison as well as their home circumstances (Champion 47).
Once a convict has been placed on parole, there are a number of conditions bound to him/her. For instance failure to meet with the parole officer or a probation officer may lead the convicted individual to go back to prison and serve out the rest of his/her sentence (Abadinsky 64). Being on parole is the same as being on probation as the conditions laid down must be met, failure to which may lead to the individual ending up in jail.
Within a prison sentence, there exists what is known as a Parole Eligibility Date or PED which is followed by an annual allowance where the prisoner can apply for parole (Hoffman 34). Four months before the prisoner’s PED, they are given the opportunity to read any reports concerning them as well as make written representations giving reasons as to why he/she thinks they are worthy of parole (Abadinsky 65).
Then two months before the prisoner’s PED, Parole board members will consider the prisoner’s case, focusing mainly on the risk that may befall the public following the release of the prisoner who may attempt to commit an offense. A prisoner serving less than 15 years is more likely to be granted parole than the one who has served over 15 years (Whitehead & Stathman 104).
Similarities and Differences between Probation and Parole
Probations and paroles are similar in a number of ways where one of the most common similarities shared between them is that both convicts under parole as well as probation are supervised by an officer assigned to them in addition to meeting with them for updates (Abadinsky 66).
Additionally, both probations and paroles are set in such a way that if the convicted person fails to abide to both probation or parole rules and regulation, it will automatically result to the individual being sent back to prison to finish up their jail term (Champion 50). Another similarity found under parole and probation is that they are both law abiding and have a few conditions that need too be adhered to by the convict in order to be granted parole or probation. Parole and probation usually grants a prisoner who has been involved in crime an opportunity to be in the general public and hopefully become a productive individual rather than a person who spends his time in jail (Abadinsky 67).
On the other hand, there are also a number of differences that exist between probation and parole for instance while the accused can be assigned to probation as their sentence due to jury trial or a plea bargain, parole takes place once the individual has been imprisoned for a certain period and is granted by the Parole board and not the courts (Whitehead & Stathman 107). Next, probation is granted by the court where the sentencing judge is considered as the final authority over it while the Parole Board is the one charged with the responsibility of granting parole over the prisoner, having the final authority (Hoffman 36).
Even though both probation and parole may appear similar in a number of ways, they are different in that parole is considered stricter especially in the beginning than probation (Champion 51). For instance, there are some states where in order for a convict who is on parole to lead a normal life such as getting married or changing place of residence, they are required to obtain permission to do so from their parole officer. On the other hand, a prisoner under probation needs only notify his probation officer of his/her intentions as they do not necessarily need permission from him to do so (Abadinsky 68).
The criminal justice system is currently doing everything in its power to ensure that jails are decongested and that those convicted get a fair trial and another chance in life through provision of paroles and probations. It is therefore important for the community to be trained and educated on how best to handle and care for those being released to the public under probation or parole.
Abadinsky, Howard. “Probation and Parole: Theory and Practice.” Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Pearson Prentice Hall. 2008. Pp. 58 – 79.
Champion, Dean J. “Probation, Parole, and Community Corrections.” Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Pearson Prentice Hall. 2008. Pp. 28 – 63.
Hoffman, Peter B. “History of the Federal Parole System.” Wm. S. Hein Publishing. 2004. Pp. 12 – 44.
Whitehead, Philip and Stathman, Roger. “The History of Probation: Politics, Power and Cultural Change 1875 – 2005.” Crayford: Shaw. 2006. Pp. 101 – 119.