Granting Probation and Parole

Fundamentals of Procedural Law by Adam J. McKee

Understanding the processes behind granting probation and parole can give us a clearer view of the criminal justice system. Both probation and parole represent alternatives to imprisonment and provide a chance for individuals to reintegrate into society under supervision. This section will delve into how these decisions are made and the factors that influence them.

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Factors Considered When Granting Probation

When a judge considers granting probation, they look at a number of factors. Notably, the nature of the crime plays a significant role. For instance, violent crimes often have a lower chance of probation than non-violent offenses.

Next, the judge considers the offender’s past criminal history. A person with a clean record is more likely to receive probation than someone with a history of repeated offenses. If you’ve shown good behavior in the past, a judge might see this as a sign that you can follow the rules of probation.

Lastly, judges think about the potential benefit of rehabilitation. Probation allows individuals to stay in their community while they work on improving their behavior. It often includes counseling or education programs. The judge must decide if this approach is more likely to prevent future crimes than sending the person to prison.

However, judges don’t make these decisions alone. They often consult probation officers and use pre-sentence reports to help make informed decisions. So, granting probation involves careful thought and consideration from multiple parties.

Supreme Court Cases Relevant to Granting Probation

To deepen our understanding, let’s discuss three landmark Supreme Court cases relevant to the topic.

In Griffin v. Wisconsin (1987), the court addressed the Fourth Amendment rights of probationers. Probation officers searched Griffin’s home without a warrant, leading to the discovery of a firearm. The court upheld the search, reasoning that the probation system requires flexible responses, not bound by traditional warrant requirements.

In United States v. Knights (2001), the Court examined the constitutionality of a search condition in probation orders. The police had searched Knights’ apartment without a warrant but based on reasonable suspicion, leading to the discovery of incendiary devices. The Court upheld the search, balancing the probationer’s diminished privacy rights against the government’s interest in preventing recidivism.

Finally, in Morrissey v. Brewer (1972), the Court clarified due process rights in parole revocation hearings. While this case primarily concerns parole, it has significant implications for probation since similar procedures are used in revoking both. The Court held that parolees are entitled to two hearings, one preliminary and one final, before their parole can be revoked.

These cases demonstrate how the process of granting and revoking probation and parole is closely intertwined with constitutional rights and principles. These decisions play a vital role in shaping the way our criminal justice system operates.

Factors Considered When Granting Parole

Just as with probation, parole boards weigh multiple factors when deciding to grant parole. First among these is the offender’s behavior while in prison. An offender who follows the rules and demonstrates positive change in prison stands a better chance of getting parole.

Next, the likelihood of recidivism, or repeating an offense, is considered. If the board believes the offender is unlikely to commit another crime, they’re more likely to grant parole.

Lastly, the board considers the potential benefit of early release. This often involves evaluating the offender’s support network and reentry plan outside of prison, such as housing and employment opportunities. Remember, the goal of parole is to facilitate a successful transition back into the community.

The Process of Granting Parole

The parole process follows a defined structure. The parole board, typically composed of experienced professionals in the field of criminal justice, reviews each case. These members examine the offender’s file, conduct hearings, and finally make a decision.

If parole is granted, parole officers play a significant role in managing the offender’s transition back into society. They not only supervise the parolees but also provide support and resources. The terms of parole are clearly communicated to the parolee, detailing what they can and can’t do.


In this section, we delved into the processes of granting probation and parole. We explored the factors considered by judges and parole boards, including the nature of the crime, the individual’s past behavior, and the potential for rehabilitation or successful reentry into society. Despite the differences between probation and parole, both aim to balance public safety with the individual’s opportunity for growth and reform.

Understanding these procedures underscores the complexity and nuance of our criminal justice system. These decisions are never taken lightly, and they reflect the constant tension between punishment and rehabilitation. In the end, probation and parole remain important tools for providing second chances, reducing recidivism, and promoting community safety.


Modification History

File Created:  08/08/2018

Last Modified:  07/27/2023

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This work is licensed under an Open Educational Resource-Quality Master Source (OER-QMS) License.

Open Education Resource--Quality Master Source License

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