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What's the Difference Between Probation & Parole?

Most adults are familiar with the terms probation and parole, however, a lot of people are not sure how they are different. There are distinct differences, and for anyone who is facing criminal charges, they will want to understand what probation and parole means.

What is probation?
Probation refers to the situation where the courts place an adult offender on supervision in the community; they do this through a probation agency and usually in lieu of incarceration.

Some jurisdictions will sentence a probationer to a combination of short-term incarceration, followed by probation – this is called a “split sentence.”

In most cases, while an offender is on probation, he or she must fulfill certain conditions of their supervision, such as:

  • Pay fines
  • Pay victim restitution
  • Pay court costs
  • Abide by the law
  • Stay away from known criminals
  • Abstain from using drugs or alcohol
  • Stay away from someone protected in a restraining order
  • Participate in a substance abuse treatment program

If the offender fails to comply with any of the conditions of their probation, it can result in incarceration. This is referred to as a “probation violation.”

In Arizona, the Adult Probation Services Division (APSD) is the agency responsible for overseeing the statewide administration of adult probation programs. The APSD works with the courts, probation departments and many non-court agencies throughout Arizona.

What is parole?
Parole refers to offenders who have been conditionally released from prison to serve the remainder of their sentence in the community. Prisoners are released to parole according to provisions of a statute, or because of a decision of a parole board (discretionary release/parole).

Much like a probationer, parolees are required to adhere to specific conditions and rules of conduct while they are in the community. If a parolee violates one or more conditions of their parole, it could result in being sent back to prison to serve the rest of their sentence.

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, in 2013, there were over 4,750,000 adults under community supervision. By the end of 2013, approximately 1 in 51 adults in the U.S. were under community supervision.

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