cuffs and gavel - parole vs. probation

What's the Difference Between Probation and Parole?

Difference Between Parole and Probation

In a criminal matter, you might hear that someone has been released on probation or parole. Although these terms are often used interchangeably, in Rhode Island, they are two different legal statuses and, typically, occur at two different stages of the case.

What Is Probation?

Probation is a type of sentence a judge may impose on a person convicted of a crime. Instead of serving time in jail or prison, the individual can complete their sentence in the community. Of course, a Probation Officer may monitor them during the time of their supervision.

In Rhode Island, judges can impose "split sentences." This means that the individual will be ordered to incarceration and then probation after they are released.

What Is Parole?

Parole is distinct from probation in that instead of it being a conviction sentence, it is a type of release an inmate can apply for after having served a portion of their incarceration term. If granted, the parolee would be allowed to finish their sentence in the community.

Parole may be available to inmates who have been ordered to 6 months or more of incarceration. Typically, they are eligible to seek this type of relief after they have served 1/3 of their total sentence.

Although an inmate may be eligible for a parole hearing, that does not mean the relief is automatically granted.

Before determining whether or not the inmate may be released on supervision, the Parole Board will consider various factors, including, but not limited to:

  • How serious the offense was
  • How the inmate's conduct affected the victim
  • Whether the inmate has a history of engaging in criminal conduct
  • Whether the inmate has changed their behavior since being incarcerated
  • Whether the inmate has a release plan
  • Whether the inmate's release will pose a danger to the safety of the community

Similar to probation, when a person is out on parole, they are under the supervision of a Department of Corrections Parole Officer.

What Are the Conditions of Probation and Parole?

If a person is placed on probation or parole, they must abide by certain conditions set by the court. Although some similarities exist in the terms, those for parole are often stricter than those for probation.

Conditions of probation may include:

  • Reporting to a Probation Officer
  • Abiding by all laws
  • Requesting approval before traveling or moving out of Rhode Island
  • Immediately reporting a change of address

Depending on their circumstances, probationers may be subject to special conditions, such as completing a counseling program, paying restitution to the victim, or attending a substance abuse treatment course.

Conditions of parole may include:

  • Reporting to a Parole Officer
  • Obtaining employment approval
  • Obtaining housing approval
  • Refraining from contacting other parolees
  • Being subject to drug testing

What Are the Consequences of a Violation?

If a probationer or parolee violates the terms of their supervision, they may be subject to severe penalties. Depending on the circumstances, a judge may impose additional conditions. The probationer or parolee may also be incarcerated.

If you've been accused of a probation violation in Rhode Island, contact The Law Office of Thomas C. Thomasian, Esq. at (401) 312-4385 today. We can provide the representation you need during your hearing to seek a favorable outcome.