Difference Between Parole and Probation

Parole vs Probation

Probation and parole represent two important terms in law where the difference between the two terms ‘parole’ and ‘probation’ is clearly defined. However, collectively, Parole and Probation constitute certain concessions granted to persons convicted of crimes. So, given that the general concept surrounding both terms is relatively similar, there is a tendency for layperson to confuse the two and accordingly use them interchangeably. However, this is incorrect as there is a notable distinction between them. Keep in mind that the objectives of Parole and Probation are similar in that they rehabilitate offenders and ensure their smooth reintegration into society. The ultimate goal is to avoid the repetition of a crime or ensure the prevention of the same. Let us take a closer look.

What is Parole?

The term Parole is defined, in legal terms, as the conditional release of a person convicted of an offence prior to the completion of that person’s term of imprisonment, subject to the fulfillment of certain conditions and supervision of the prescribed authorities. This release is generally executed for the balance part of the term of imprisonment and on the basis that failure to fulfill the conditions or violation of the same will result in imprisonment. In simple terms, Parole refers to the early release of criminals. This early release is generally granted on the basis that the offenders will serve the balance portion of their imprisonment serving the community and/or attending rehabilitation programmes. Parole is typically granted by a Parole Board or in some countries, in accordance with the provisions of a particular statute. As mentioned above, it is defined as a ‘conditional release’ because the person must fulfill certain conditions in order to remain free and avoid going back to prison. These conditions include payments of fines or other financial obligations, finding suitable employment, taking up residence in a house as ordered by the authorities, attending rehabilitation programmes such as drug or alcohol rehabilitation programmes, anger management, or counseling sessions. It goes without saying that the person should refrain from committing any crimes. Aside from the above conditions, the person granted Parole is required to report to an officer, generally known as a Parole Officer, who is authorised to supervise the progress of the Parolee.

Difference Between Parole and Probation

Parole and probation officer doing her job

What is Probation?

The circumstances surrounding Probation are comparatively different to that of Parole. Legally, Probation is defined as a sentence given by a court of law whereby a convict or offender is not incarcerated, but is released subject to certain conditions as stipulated by the court. The convict thus remains under the supervision of the court. Probation is often granted in place of imprisonment in certain cases. In such an instance, the convicted person does not have to serve time in a prison or jail but is instead required to fulfill certain conditions. As with Parole, failure to fulfill the said conditions or violation of Probation rules will result in imprisonment. A court will generally order Probation when the crime committed is of a minor nature or the circumstances surrounding the crime are not of a serious nature. The basic idea behind Probation is to imply that the person on Probation is not a threat to society and that imprisonment may not be a suitable punishment. Conditions attached to Probation typically include community service for a stipulated number of hours, participation in rehabilitation programmes, finding employment, payment of fines or fees. The court will assign an officer, known as a Probation officer, to supervise the person on Probation who will in turn present his/her report to the court.

What is the difference between Parole and Probation?

• Parole is a type of privilege granted to criminals after they have completed a certain portion of their term of imprisonment.

• Probation is a type of court sentence imposed on offenders upon been convicted of a particular crime.

• While Parole is often granted by a Parole Board or according to statutory provisions, Probation is granted by a court of law.

• In the case of Parole, a person has already served some time in prison before been released on parole. However, in the case of Probation, the person is granted an alternative to imprisonment.

• Probation is often granted in the case of minor offences or crimes as opposed to Parole that may be granted to persons convicted of serious crimes such as murder.


Images Courtesy:

  1. Parole and probation officer via Wikicommons (Public Domain)