The Difference Between a Probation Officer and a Parole Officer

When it comes to the criminal justice system, many different terms can easily be confused. For example, many people may not know the difference between posting bail and posting bond, or the difference between prison and jail. While there are plenty such examples, one particularly easy mistake to make is confusing probation and parole. The reason for this is that the two terms are used frequently but are rarely defined for the layman.

Here we will take a look at the difference between probation and parole and determine the fundamental differences between a parole officer and a probation officer.

Probation Defined

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics probation is the status of an adult offender who is placed under supervision, in the community, by the courts. This supervision is conducted through a probation agency, and the probation is often given in lieu of incarceration.

The probation may come in conjunction with a reduced sentence in certain situations and jurisdictions. Those under probation usually have certain stipulations they must adhere to, which may include keeping in touch with their probation officer through telephone, mail, or in person. As such, a probation officer is the person who supervises those on probation.

Parole Defined

Parole a condition in which a criminal is released from incarceration and allowed to complete the remainder of their sentence within the community. Parole is often associated with the early release of an inmate who has committed a felony crime and who is believed to be rehabilitated and not at risk of reoffending.

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Parole may be granted as a result of a parole board hearing or in compliance with applicable statutes. Parolees, like those on probation, may have to keep in touch with an officer through any one of various means of communication.  Thus, parole officers supervise those on parole.

The Similarities are Sometimes Greater Than the Differences

Due to the variations in different municipalities across the country, the role played by a probation officer versus that played by a parole officer may be more or less distinct, depending on the location and situation. In some states one individual may serve as both probation and parole officer, depending on how that state defines these roles.

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