What is the difference between probation and parole?
These two concepts are similar in appearance and function but have very important differences. Probation is an agreement with the accused and the court in which the court agrees to keep the defendant out of jail so long as he agrees to abide by a set of conditions imposed upon him by the court. Typical conditions includes paying fines, court costs, restitution, maintaining employment, community service, substance abuse treatment with drug testing and not get re-arrested. So long as the probationer does these things in a timely manner for an agreed period of time, he will remain out of jail. Should he mess up, he will go in front of the judge to account for his transgressions and the court has many disciplinary options available ranging from continuing with the probationary term or sending the person to jail. If the probation is revoked, the defendant will go to jail to serve the entirety of the sentence previously imposed but suspended by the court.
Parole, on the other hand, is an agreement with the Department of Corrections to allow a person serving a jail sentence to be released back into society with certain constraints placed upon his liberty. The parole board ‘s conditions are similar to those imposed upon the probationer by the court. The duration of parole is simply the balance left to serve of the sentence imposed upon the prisoner. However, if the parolee messes up he does not go back to court. Instead, he has a hearing before the parole board who will decide his fate. In practice, the parole board is less forgiving than the court placing a person on to probation. The parole board could issue a warning; add conditions; or revoke parole. If parole is revoked, the parolee will return to jail to serve the remaining portion of his sentence although recent changes to the law will credit him for the time he spent out of jail and in good standing with his parole (also known as “street time”).