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Parole and Probation are both quite similar concepts applied within the justice system. However, there is a slight difference between the two. Probation is granted by a judge as an alternative to serving an actual jail sentence, whereas parole can only be granted after the offender has served some portion of their sentence. Therefore, parole is considered a privilege to prisoners serving their sentences where probation is an alternative to sentencing. In both, the probationer and the parolee have to abide by the laid out rules by the county and state courts, often known as conditions for parole/ probation.
Probationers must abide by these conditions and report regularly to their respective probation officers to remain in society. Similarly, while on parole, parolees have to; submit to drug and alcohol testing, find legal employment, a place of residence and keep meeting their parole officers as directed. Violation or failure to comply with the set conditions of parole or probation results in its revocation.
The Fourth Amendment of the US Constitution does not extend to those on parole/ probation, meaning their homes and areas of residence are subject to impromptu searches; even without official search warrants.
The main purpose of the justice system is to offer rehabilitation to the incarcerated and by extension, of course, reduce or prevent further criminal activity. To effectively carry out this mandate the legal justice system has had to develop several provisions and laws to prosecute offenders. Remember the goal here is not entirely on punishment, but more importantly on rehabilitating and eventually re-integrating the offender into civilized society.
It is for this reason that the criminal justice system came up with community corrections; the non-prison sanctions like parole and probation. Since these offenders are not considered to be of any great threat to society, their residing in the community is intended to reintroduce them into society. Probation and parole are determined to be sufficient punishment for the slight offenses, not necessarily worth incarceration. Therefore, this essay’s main agenda is to determine whether these community-based sanctions are as effective as they were designed to be or if the offenders are simply taking them for granted. This can be observed by studying the criminal history of the offenders; that is before and after their incarceration and analyzing the crime patterns of parolees and probationers during and after serving their full sentences.
Parole is the practice of releasing prisoners/ offenders before the termination of their sentence as a variation of imprisonment. Now parole can be automatically granted after serving a given portion of one’s sentence or as a discretionary act of the Parole Board. The Board first evaluates the prisoners’ information and criminal history to determine whether or not they are ready for reintegration into society. Since the offender will no longer be confined in a prison facility, the conditions of parole are implemented to prohibit behavior that would otherwise be considered dangerous or criminal. The aim of these conditions being to assist the parole officer, or P.O, in the role of guiding the parolee into being a model citizen (Rhine & Petersilia & Reitz, 2017). It is also worth mentioning that the parole officer only takes the laid out steps toward revoking ones’ parole if and only if he/ she feels the parolee’s actions are in serious violation of said conditions. If the parolee’s actions indicate a lack of proper adjustment to society, the parole officer is at liberty to believe it will result in antisocial behavior.
As already established, probation is rather similar to parole. Thus, the role of the probation officer is also mainly centered on the supervision of the offenders. With probation, however, there are two distinct levels of probationers; those under active supervision and those placed under inactive supervision. Those placed under active supervision report regularly to their POs, probation officers, and are often guilty of having committed serious offenses in the eyes of the state. The minor offenders are usually placed under inactive supervision. Sometimes, if having served much of their probationary sentence without any violations, the serious offenders can be placed on inactive supervision.
Despite the rehabilitation and integration benefits parolees and probationers stand to gain from these community corrections they are often sidetracked by several factors. For one it is very hard for parolees to find employment due to their status as convicted criminals. Many employers find it hard to trust them, and their work ethics by extension, meaning they rarely offer them the opportunity. This only puts more pressure on these individuals since finding and retaining lawful employment is a requirement under the conditions of parole. Without jobs, they are at risk of violating their parole and ending up back in prison (Ricciardelli & Crow & Adorjan, 2019). Such a mental state is not recommended for felons attempting to reintegrate with their communities. On top of all this, the offenders on parole have to devise methods to avoid going homeless. Without a paying job this task is next to impossible and this also heavily bears on the parolee’s conscious.
The next likely step for offenders in such a predicament is turning back to crime. Often considered to be the biggest downfall of parole is the fact that it lets offenders get back to their activities sooner than later. These criminals are released back into society, sometimes a little too soon, and are often back into contact with people, areas, and factors from their past lives. The likelihood of them slipping back into crime is further compounded by the hard social conditions they encounter compared to prison life. Research findings indicate that over 20% of parolees return to prison as repeat offenders. A disturbing statistic, especially, given the fact that the whole point of parole is to facilitate rehabilitation and integration.
The failure to integrate presents another challenge within the community. The presence of past offenders in residential areas is often met with plenty of criticism from neighbors and other residents. Meaning the offenders feels even more marginalized and disenfranchised than their counterparts in federal and state prison facilities. These societies tend to believe that these offenders are not as well-adjusted as they claim to be, they see them as mistakes made by the justice system. Their trust is strongly rooted in the fact that one should serve out their full sentence in prison, surrounded by jail bars. Yet again, in such an unwelcoming and even unaccommodating environment, it is not hard to find offenders turning back to crime (Breetzke & Polaschek & Curtis-Ham, 2019).
Probation or parole affects the offenders more than anyone else in society. It is them that have their jail sentences reduced or get no jail time at all; in the case of probation. Therefore, can we to any degree ascertain whether these individuals truly appreciate these rights and provisions or are do they simply take them for granted? To best tackle this query we must first consider the concept of community supervision. Does it have any impact as far as reducing or regulating criminal activity in communities where it is applied? Given that the number of recidivism cases steadily increases each year it stands to reason that certain areas or aspects of community supervision need improvement (Jones, 2018). Most of the research done on this matter looks at how certain types of control can be adjusted for increased effectiveness of supervision. The basic principle/ building block behind this assessment of community supervision being to determine whether the crime would increase without it. Most results, however, indicate the little variation between those with more conditions/ supervision over their conduct and the rate of recidivism among the comparison group(s).
Next, we consider the individuals; the criminal offenders themselves. It is important that we first note not all criminals have similar motivations. Some are urged on by greed, envy, and generally malicious intent while others are pushed by desperation, extreme poverty and other factors of circumstance. So even though the offenses of both sets of criminals might be it is far too presumptuous to believe that their correction and rehabilitation will require the same set of controls. With this in mind, it is clear that the offender driven with malice if offered the option of parole is more likely to turn back to crime than the one driven by circumstance. However, if the circumstances of the otherwise desperate offender remain unchanged; that is their financial and social states are still deplorable, they too are just as likely to engage in criminal activity.
There are those prisoners who genuinely do appreciate the provision of community corrections. The individuals who are grateful for another opportunity to do better by their families, friends, and also by themselves. Integrating back into society for them implies starting over, and with parole and or probation they are offered a lot more time to do just that. Because of these individuals, it would be wrong to conclude that offenders take parole/ probation for granted. Studies on self-reporting can help clarify this point. A self-report is a report by the offender that indicates their criminal activities during the year before their arrest and their probation. These studies can help identify the impact, positive or otherwise, of community supervision on offenders’ activities (Jennings, 2017). The self-report study is very effective since plenty of the crimes committed are not entered into official records of arrest. These reports indicate a decline in criminal activity among offenders during the probation/ parole period in comparison to the pre-arrest period. They also outline factors, mainly those that constituted violating one’s parole, that is directly linked with increased criminal activity.
It is clear that determining whether offenders take parole/ probation for granted or not is a rather thing to determine. With much of the research on the issues of parole showing little and less to conclusively prove anything, the law remains to be our guiding principle. This means that the Parole Commission will remain to be the deciding factor for who is worthy of parole. The reassuring part about this is that both probation and parole are subject to conditions of release that one has to adhere to avoid jail. This, therefore, is the true test of one’s sincerity in appreciating the role of parole in the criminal justice system. Those that take it for granted will inevitably end up back in prison as a result of recidivism, whereas those who appreciate the freedom it offers will work at not violating their parole. Remember, that if an offender commits a new crime while on probation they will be prosecuted for the offense and not only be charged with violating their probation. Some of the other penalties for parole violations are fines, arrest warrants and increased term of parole. Keep in mind that if parole is revoked by the Parole Commission one is immediately returned to state or federal prison to serve the remainder of their terms.
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