If you’ve been accused of a crime, you want to understand the potential punishments. If you face probation or parole, you’ll need to understand what those terms imply. They are very different and mean different things for your future.
Parole is a conditional release from prison that criminal offenders may receive. When a prisoner is up for parole, he or she may go before a parole board who will then make the decision on whether or not he should be allowed out of prison. Parole is also when a prisoner is released on statute. For instance, if the prisoner will be released with active supervision, that would be an example of being released on statute.
When you think about parole, realize that it means you’ve already been convicted and imprisoned. It’s not possible to go from trial to parole in the same way that you can go from trial into probation.
Probation is when you are placed in the supervision of the community through a probation agency. You may have a probation officer that you must report to. Probation is completed in lieu of incarceration, so that means you may never have to go to prison. However, if probation is violated, you could be forced to go to jail or prison instead.
While a person is on probation, he or she will be expected to comply with all conditions of the release. For instance, if you were told you must have a job, can only travel within 10 miles and need to stay away from certain people, these demands must be met in order for you to remain free and on probation. The violation of these terms could result in you going to court and prison.
Source: Bureau of Justice Statistics, “FAQ Detail” accessed Feb. 17, 2015