Roles of Probation and Parole

Probation and parole are forms of community supervision that help to decrease the population of prisons. While these forms are sometimes used interchangeably by people outside the criminal justice system, these matters are different. The present paper compares and contrasts these two forms of community supervision and discusses their benefits and flaws. Even though there are some controversies in probation and parole, I strongly support these practices as they focus on rehabilitation and help to decrease the costs of the criminal justice system.

Community supervision practices are widespread in the United States and abroad. According to Cengage (2020), 3.4 million offenders are supervised in the community on probation or parole. Probation is defined as “the act of suspending the sentence of a person convicted of a criminal offense and granting that person provisional freedom on the promise of good behavior” (Horwitz & Rosaen, 2013, p. 5). In other words, probation is an alternative to incarceration that can be granted to an offender under several conditions. These conditions may vary among different states; however, the decision to grant probation usually depends upon the seriousness of the crime, risks for recidivism, and living circumstances (Horwitz & Rosaen, 2013). Parole is different from probation, as it is granted to offenders that served a minimal sentence in prison and recommended by the parole officers due to good behavior in prison. While hearing the parole case, the board considers the nature of the crime, prior convictions, violence, and firearm ownership (Cengage, 2020). Moreover, the committee reviews how well the parolee demonstrated his or her rehabilitation, a willingness to accept responsibility, and self-understanding (Cengage, 2020). In summary, even though the two practices share some similarities, they apply to different populations.

I support the use of both probation and parole despite the biases associated with them. According to Cengage (2020), critics of probation and parole claimed that these systems were capricious and arbitrary. The central problem is that there are no definite criteria behind the decision-making process. Judges often base their decision on the reports made by the community supervision officers between 65% and 95% of all time, which implies that the decision depends on the investigation of one person overloaded with work (Horwitz & Rosaen, 2013). However, community supervision is a powerful instrument that keeps the population of prisons down, reduces the expenses of the criminal justice system, and promotes the reintegration of offenders into the community (Cengage, 2020). In North Carolina alone, annual spending on prisons is almost $23 billion, with an average per capita cost of $37,712.87 (NCDPS, 2020). Public supervision of offenders costs $1,874.12 per year on average, which is considerably less than incarceration (NCDPS, 2020). Therefore, I am a strong supporter of both probation and parole.

I believe that there are two central roles of community supervision: rehabilitating the offender and decreasing the costs of the criminal justice system. I believe that community supervision helps non-violent offenders to repay their debt to society without experiencing the stigma of incarceration. Offenders on probation parolees receive a chance to stay with their friends and families under certain conditions. Moreover, states governments can save up to $36,000 a year by using probation and parole instead of incarceration. Even though people under community supervision are at a higher risk of recidivism compared to imprisonment, the benefits surpass the possible drawbacks.


Cengage. (2020). Probation and parole: History, goals, and decision-making.

Horwitz, J., & Rosaen, A. (2013). Incentives in state probation systems: Relation to structure and practices. Anderson Economic Group.

NCDPS. (2020). Cost of corrections. North Carolina Department of Public Safety.