John Augustus | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee
Course: Introduction 

John Augustus, also known as the “Father of Probation,” was a prison reformer in the 19th century who is credited with establishing the concept of probation in the criminal justice system.

John Augustus began work as a probation officer began in 1841 when he posted bail for a drunkard in a Boston court, so the man could avoid imprisonment and remain employed. This action was unprecedented at the time, and it marked the beginning of Augustus’ lifelong commitment to helping individuals avoid incarceration.

Over the years, Augustus became known for his work in rehabilitating offenders and helping them reintegrate into society. He would take custody of offenders and help them secure employment and housing. Augustus would also provide moral and financial support to the offenders, often out of his own pocket.

Augustus’ efforts were based on the idea that criminal behavior was not always a result of inherent moral deficiencies but could be caused by external factors such as poverty, addiction, and lack of education. He believed that the criminal justice system should focus on rehabilitation and not just punishment.

The work of John Augustus was instrumental in the establishment of the first official probation system in the United States in 1878. This system was based on the idea that certain offenders could be rehabilitated through community supervision and that imprisonment should be reserved for more serious offenders.

Today, probation is a fundamental part of the criminal justice system in the United States, and it is used as an alternative to incarceration for millions of offenders each year. The system is designed to provide offenders with the opportunity to reform while still holding them accountable for their actions.

John Augustus’ legacy as the “Father of Probation” lives on today, as his work paved the way for the development of community supervision programs that are still used to help individuals avoid incarceration and successfully reintegrate into society. His efforts in the 19th century helped to transform the way that society views criminal behavior, and his work continues to inspire probation officers and criminal justice professionals today. Augustus’ legacy serves as a reminder of the importance of compassion, rehabilitation, and second chances in the criminal justice system.

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On Other Sites

      • Read more about John Augustus in an issue of Federal Probation.

[ Glossary ]

Last Modified: 04/25/2023


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