There are often misunderstandings when it comes to parole and probation in which people tend to confuse one for the other and it’s understandable. Since both have the end result of not being incarcerated, it can be easy to think that the systems for both are similar but in reality, probation and parole are two completely different entities. Here is an overview of how they differ.
You don’t actually have to serve time with probation
While you may have spent the night in jail after being arrested and waiting for a bond hearing, typically if someone is granted probation that night will be the only time they will have to spend in jail unless they are not in compliance with the terms of their probation. With parole on the other hand, time served is a requirement. This is because parole is actually a reward for good behavior when a certain amount of time served has been accomplished so you cannot be on parole unless you had been incarcerated in the first place.
It’s hard to get probation if you have a previous record
If this is a first time offense for a defendant and the charges are relatively minor and don’t involve physical harm to another then the chances of probation tend to be much higher. It’s not to say that it is impossible to get parole if you had been arrested previously but that there is a significantly reduced chance. The other part of this however is how strict and the overall outlook of the judge. Some judges may be set in handing down jail time if they feel it would be in benefit to the defendant or society while others may be more lenient if they feel a lesson could be learned without having to be detained. With parole previous record does not matter as much because they will be evaluating behavior during the sentence.
A panel will decide on parole
The third major difference between parole and probation is that with parole an entire board will be involved in whether a person is granted parole. When it comes to probation, the decision is solely up the judge but with parole, the person has to first be eligible and then they will meet with a board to answer questions and tell them why they feel that parole should be granted. After this the board will collaboratively decide on the outcome.
Overall, although both parole and probation allow the defendant to avoid being in prison they way that they get there is a very different in practically every way.