Probation and Parole: Origins and Decision-Making


Many people require supervision in the United States, which makes it essential to understand the contributing factors to their success. The number of people under probation and parole is higher than that of people incarcerated in federal, state, or local institutions. Both probation and parole are considered community correction measures, and they entail general community supervision. However, they differ in other aspects, such as the authorities that issue them. Probation acquitting is available to the local juries, whereby the court releases offenders who have already been convicted. The judge then orders them to serve a sentence for a certain period, with the court’s conditions. In this case, the offender does not serve any sentence in prison, as they are kept under supervision. Parole occurs when a person initially serving a term of imprisonment gets released but remains under surveillance. Parole and probation have been effective in reducing crime in society and, at the same time, solving the problem of overpopulation in jails and prisons. This paper highlights the origins of probation and parole, their decision-making, and the recent trends in probation and parole.

Origins of Probation and Parole

The Origin of Probation

Probation traces its origins to the various judicial practices exercised in England and several courts in North America. Bail or “release or recognizance” made it possible for the offender to be released to the community under certain conditions while awaiting trial (Kaeble and Mariel Alper 59). If the offenders failed to follow the set requirements, they would be arrested and sentenced to a specific term in prison. In rare circumstances, the court would spare them more contact with the system of criminal justice (Bradner et al. 78). In the English courts, the judicial would ask judges to make a temporary suspension to execution or imposition of a sentence. The suspension mainly aims at allowing the defendant to make an appeal of pardon to the Crown. The judges meant this suspension to be temporary, but the judges would abandon further prosecution of those cases in most cases (Kaeble and Mariel Alper 90). Judges in the United States also adopted this move, and they would use their power to suspend the sentencing of an offender in cases where justice had been miscarried. The judiciary extended this suspension of sentencing to cases that did not have a miscarry of justice to give offenders a second chance.

During the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century, John Augustus, a shoemaker, would bail offenders out of court and bear the responsibility of watching them in society. Augustus made history in the law society because he was among the first to advocate probation (Bradner et al. 89). Augustus’ method of probation has a remarkable resemblance to the present probation. Before choosing an offender for probation, Augustus would consider their age, character, and offense. This analysis would help him decide whether probation would be the best fit for the offender (KIaeble and Mariel Alper 99). These activities done by the shoemaker provided the origin for the present-day investigations made before granting probation to an offender.

Origins of Parole

Before the mid-nineteenth century, many lawbreakers would be sent to prison for determination or flat rulings (Schaefer and Sally 279). Through this method of sentencing, the offender would receive a certain amount of time in jail after committing a specific crime. As a result, prisons became crowded, and the judiciary had to develop a solution (Marushak et al. 38). Governors would issue mass pardons, and prison wardens would release random offenders to create a room for the new prisoners.

Captain Alexander Maconochie and Sir Walter Crofton have all the credit for developing the early parole systems. According to (Schaefer et al. 280), Maconochie was appointed as the governor of the English penal colony at Norfolk Island, on the coast of Australia, in 1840. He eliminated the flat sentence structure and introduced a marking system that allowed prisoners to earn freedom through good behavior and hard work in prison (Bradner et al. 75). Sir Walter Crofton became the administrator of the Irish Prison System in 1854, and he developed a system that incorporated three classes of penal servitude, namely tickets of leave, indeterminate sentences, and strict imprisonment (Oudekerk and Danielle 59). This system allows prisoners to earn marks which would eventually allow them to return to the community. These measures have been implemented in the present judiciary system, where prisoners can be released with a proven record of good behavior and hard work.

Decision-Making in Probation and Parole

The decision to Grant Probation

Most offenders are usually not given a sentence in prison. About fifty-five percent of offenders are convicted (Oudekerk and Danielle 56). About twenty-five percent are set on probation, fifteen percent are sentenced to jail, and the remaining ten percent are sent to prison (Oudekerk and Danielle 57). Community corrections officials have a significant role in assessing the risks that the offenders pose to society if released. Before recommending the appropriate sentence to the court, they need to evaluate whether the offenders will affect public safety (Schaefer and Sally 276). Probation officers have the role of conducting a background investigation on the offender during the pretrial period. After the offender has been convicted, the probation officer prepares a presentence investigation report (PSI) (Marushak et al. 49). The court uses the report provided by the probation officer to decide whether the offender is suited for probation. For the offenders who have received probation, the court decides how to impose the sentence and the guidelines that the offender should follow. The offender goes against the court’s instructions; the court has the right to sentence them to prison or jail term.

Decision-making in Parole Release

The parole commission, or parole board, can decide whether inmates will complete their terms or will be released before their times are over (Kaeble and Mariel Alper 80). The board also has the responsibility of deciding whether to revoke parole or discharge from parole the offenders who have completed their jail sentence (Schaefer and Sally 281). The decision to grant parole highly depends on the offender’s case file, including a PSI and interviews with the inmate. After meeting the statutory requirements and completing the minimum sentence, an offender is eligible for parole. Parolees are still considered prisoners, and the court can recall them to serve their remaining sentence if they fail to meet the requirements for release.

Recent Trends in Probation and Parole

The increasing rate of revocations

Evidence from the judicial system indicates that there has been an increase in the number of cancellations, and this has caused a significant impact on the jail and prison populations (Bradner et al. 83). At the end of the 20th century, about seventy percent of Oregon’s prison admissions were because of parole and probation revocations (Kaeble and Mariel Alper 65). Researchers note that the increase in parole and probation populations has contributed greatly to the increase in parole and probation revocations (Schaefer and Sally 285). The first factor that has caused the increment in probation and parole revocations is the parole and probation officers (Maruschak 44). This new development goes against the social work background that was used to gauge the offender’s adherence to probation or parole. Another factor is improving the monitoring methods (Schaefer and Sally 286). Close monitoring allows the probation and parole officers to track every move of the offenders. The shift towards control-oriented practices has also contributed significantly to the increase in probation and parole revocations (Kaeble and Mariel Alper 75). Additionally, some serious offenders are placed on probation and parole, increasing the supervision caseloads. Most of them misbehave after a short while, and the probation and parole officers opt to revoke their community supervision.

Empirical Data on Technical Violations

A follow-up study on probation and parole in the United States indicated that many probationers and parolees do not complete their sentences (Schaefer and Sally 282). A sample of 79,000 felony probationers and parolees said that about sixty-five percent of them are arrested for another crime or violated their probation and parole conditions, causing them to go through a disciplinary hearing (Oudekerk and Danielle 57). About forty percent of the offenders had been incarcerated again for the crime of committing a technical violation. In contrast, other studies indicate that most probationers and parolees misbehaved only once, and they completed their sentences without any issue (Bradner et al. 81). These studies refute the argument that the increased number of probationers and parolees has become dangerous for society.

Innovative Responses

Due to the increased number of parole and probation revocations, the judicial system has begun reexamining the procedures for revocation. One such development is a structure for discretionary decision-making (Maruschak et al. 42). This structure offers officers strong guidance to ensure that their choices are uniform and specific without eliminating any discretion. The agencies inform the parole and probation officers that violations are a standard part of community supervision, and revocation is not the only solution (Schaefer and Sally 279). Other jurisdictions have made several sanctions available for the officers to prevent them from choosing between lenient and harsh sanctions. Some sanctions developed are specific for parole or probation violators (Kaeble and Mariel Alper 66). An example of these sanctions is a correctional boot set in Georgia. Violators spend ninety days in the boot camp before they can go back to the community.


In conclusion, probation and parole have effectively reduced crime in society because they are efficient correctional measures, similar to jail and prison sentences. Many people commit crimes, and if all of them were to be sentenced to jail or prison terms, the prisons would be overpopulated. Parole and probation have provided alternatives for sentencing the offenders with less severe crimes to community supervision, hence creating room in jail for the more serious crime offenders. Most people have benefited from parole and probation because they have been able to mend their ways and avoid crime. The offenders who violate the probation and parole rules face various sanctions such as parole and probation revocation or going through other correctional procedures.

Works Cited

Bradner, Kendra, et al. “More work to do: Analysis of probation and parole in the United States, 2017-2018.” (2020). 78-90. Web.

Kaeble, Danielle, and Mariel Alper. “Probation and parole in the United States, 2017–2018.” Bureau of Justice Statistics (2020). 50-100. Web.

Maruschak, Laura M., and Todd D. Minton. “Correctional Populations in the United States, 2017-2018.” NCJ 252157 (2020). 20-50. Web.

Oudekerk, Barbara, and Danielle Kaeble. “Probation and parole in the United States, 2019.” Washington DC: US Department of Justice (2021). 55-60. Web.

Schaefer, Lacey, and Sally Brewer. “Probation and Parole: From Control to Case Management.” Handbook of Issues in Criminal Justice Reform in the United States. Springer, Cham, 2022. 275-290.

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LawBirdie. "Probation and Parole: Origins and Decision-Making." April 7, 2023.