Probation and Parole

1 January 2017

Criminal justice in America is divided between federal and state governments, and at each level power is diffused further, shared by three branches-executives, legislative, judicial- in a system referred to as the “separation of powers. ” In each state, authority is shared by government at the municipal, county, and state levels. Although the operations of criminal justice agencies lack any significant level of coordination, each affects the others. A disproportionate share of the criminal justice goes to the police. Law reflects the need to protect the person, the property, and norms of those who have the power to enact law.

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Probations and parole are linked to particular segments of the criminal justice system and a system of laws most frequently invoked against a distinct type of offender: the poor. Probationers or parolees who are not arrested may have been rehabilitated, or they may be more successful at avoiding detection. The bible-based practice of placing an offender who was unable to pay compensation in involuntary servitude for no more than six years can be seen as a precursor to the concept of probation. Classicalism challenged disparate justice by emphasizing equality founded on a social contract.

The classical concept of free will is the basis for the concept of mens rea in the contemporary justice system. The classical view provides the basis for determinate sentences. Free will is an oversimplification because one’s position in socity determines the degree of choice with respect to comminting crimes. Neoclassicalism maintains a basic believe in free will while paving the way for the entry of mitigation and aggravation into criminal justice. Punishment can be justified only if crime is freely chosen, intentional, and rational, that is, reasoned behavior.

That contrast with positivism and determinism-the criminal could not do otherwise. Guit of a criminal defendant must be established beyond a reasonable doubt, as opposed to the preponderance of the evidence, which is the standard in some juvenile cases and probation and parole revocation hearings. After a finding or plea of guilty, a probation officer will search court records; examine of the reports, such as psychiatric and school records; and interview the defendant, spouse, employer, arresting officer, and victim in order to prepare a presentence report that frequently contains the probation officer’s sentencing recommendation.

The extensive use of probation and parole is not based on some “liberal do-gooder” notions, but on the reality imposed by economics-the cost of imprisonment. A probation agency provides three basic services to the courts: supervision of adult offenders, presentence reports, and juvenile services. The term probation was applied by John Augustus to the practice of bailing offenders out of court, followed by a period of supervised living in the community. The spread of probation was accelerated by the juvenile court movement, which started in 1899 in Chicago and developed rapidly.

Many early probation officers where volunteers or worked part-time. Probation is administered by more than 2000 separate agencies usually located in the executive branch of state government where it is typically combined with parole. In the larger states, it is usually administered at the county level. Probation at the state level promotes uniformity; at the county level, diversity. A crime such as murder, kidnapping, and rape usually precludes a sentence of probation, as do second or third felony convictions.

A judge considering a sentence of probation considers the quality of service provided by a probation agency. Through a probation subsidy, the state reimburses the county for offenders placed on probation instead of being sentenced to a state prison. Conditions of probation in different probation agencies typically exhort the probationer to live a law abiding life, work, and support dependents. The court can impose any conditions of probation that are reasonably related to the rehabilitation of the offender or the protection of the community.

Probationers have a diminished expectation of privacy. Restitution and community service are popular conditions of probation. Pretrial release is an effort to reduce jail overcrowding. Some pretrial release programs provide for supervision. PTR programs frequently use prediction scales to determine eligibility. Pretrial diversion programs aim to remove the defendant from the criminal justice system without the need for prosecution. The primary purpose of a presentence investigation is to provide the judge with relevant sentencing information.

The PSI often contains a victim impact statement. Information in PSI is derived from interviews, records, and reports. Probation officers need to understand terms used by police agencies as well as medical and psychological terminology. For misdemeanors and less serious felonies, the Psi is often short form. The use of sentencing guidelines is an attempt to limit judicial discretion and reduce sentence disparity. Because judges tend to follow the probation officer’s recommendation, the psi has been criticized for providing too much power to the probation officer.

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