When a person pleads no contest or is found guilty of a crime, a judge determines what type of sentence he receives. For example, the convicted person may get prison time or a combination of prison time and parole, or early release. An alternative option to a prison sentence is probation. A probation sentence is typically for a period of either months or years. Probation serves a dual purpose for society and the criminal justice system.
Probation allows a person, called the probationer, to serve time outside of prison as long as she meets certain conditions set by the judge who instituted the sentence. A probationer may receive one of two types of probation. Supervised probation consists of the probationer checking in with a probation offer according to the set conditions. The probation officer typically investigates the background of a probationer before court and talks with her and her family about sentencing recommendations. The officer sets appointment times to meet to make sure that the probationer is following the conditions. Unsupervised probation is offered in a few states, according to US Legal, a source for legal definitions. Unsupervised probation consists of a term without a probation officer's management. She may report to a probation officer, but she isn't supervised as closely as she would with supervised probation.
Saves Jail Space
Instead of serving his sentence in jail or prison, the probationer is allowed to continue to work and live in society. Probation is typically for a probationer with minor crimes such as misdemeanors like petty theft. In other words, probation prevents overcrowding in the prison system. Thus, probation saves space for criminals who've committed more serious offenses like rape, murder or armed robbery.
The role of probation in the criminal justice system is the product of the early 20th century reform movement, according to The Free Dictionary by Farlex, a source for legal information. In other words, the function of probation is to rehabilitate a probationer and stop any further criminal activity. The probationer, therefore, must meet the terms of his probation. For example, some common conditions of probation may include not committing any additional crimes, paying restitution and obtaining treatment for drugs or alcohol.
Since probation is for rehabilitation, there are consequences to behavior that doesn't conform to conditions of probation. For example, a probationer who violates terms is sent to jail to complete the remaining part of her sentence. Supervised or unsupervised probation depends on the crime and circumstances.
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