Evolution of Probation and Parole

Evolutionof Probation and Parole

Issuespertaining to correctional justice have always been fundamental tothe security of any particular country. Indeed, it is wellacknowledged that large proportions of individuals who are deemed topose a danger to the livelihoods of other people go throughcorrectional facilities and are rehabilitated to become betterindividuals. However, some of the most controversial instruments ofcorrection in the contemporary human society remain to be probationand parole. Needless to say, these instruments have come a long waysince their inception to their use in the current times.

Probationunderlines the release of offenders from incarceration on conditionthat they maintain good behavior for a certain period of time withinwhich they will be subjected to constant supervision. Of particularnote is the fact that the offender is faced with the constant threatof being sent to prison within this testing period if he is boundbreaking the conditions. Some of the ordinary requirements by whichthe offenders have to abide include refraining from possessingfirearms, remaining employed, observing curfews, not leaving thejurisdiction, as well as obeying the probation officers’ orders.The history of probation can be traced to 1841, when a Boston cobblercalled John Augustus persuaded Boston Police Court not to imprisondrunkard but to release him to his custody. As much as he faced quiteconsiderable resistance, Augustus succeeded in having a number ofprisoners admitted into this program. He would bail offenders outfollowing their conviction and followed it up with other acts offriendliness including assisting them in gaining employment, therebymaking the offenders indebted to Augustus and willing to live by theagreements. Of particular note is the fact that the probation thatAugustus carried out is similar to the one practiced in the currenttimes. Augustus would determine the prisoners who fit the bill forprobation. Factors considered, in this case, were the individual’scharacter, age, as well as other factors that may affect him afterrelease.

Irrespectiveof the origins of probation, the guiding principle was primarilyrehabilitation. Indeed, Augustus stated that his efforts were aimedat reforming individuals who had been indicted for their firstoffence and who had not undergone complete depravation, in which casethey showed some hope for better things.

Parole,on the other hand, was necessitated by the overcrowding of prisons asa result of incarceration of individuals. Its origin is traced to anIrishman called and Sir Walter Crofton and Englishman named CaptainAlexander Maconochie. Maconochie did away with the flat sentencestructure that was implemented in Norfolk, where prisoners would berequired to serve their full sentences. Instead, he came up with amark system in which a convict earned freedom through good behaviorand hard work. The marks so earned would be used in reducing one’ssentence or even buying goods. Of particular note is the fact thatthe prisoners were required to pass via varied stages starting withstrict imprisonment, after which they were taken via conditionalrelease before final freedom. It is worth noting that the movement ofan individual depended on the marks that an individual accredited.Brockway similarly believed that convicts should be provided with away for earning their freedom via good behavior (Champion,2002).In essence, they were supposed to receive sentences whose lengthvaried subject to their behavior while incarcerated. This came withvaried advantages. First, this would allow for the attainment of thereforming goal as the offenders would earn their release through thedemonstration of good behavior. In addition, it offered a releasevalve that would allow for the management of prison populations.

Thesemodels of correction and rehabilitation have undergone fundamentalchanges. As stated earlier, parole and probation in the 20thcentury mainly focused on the rehabilitation elements of communitysupervision. Indeed, they were seen in humanitarian terms asopportunities for reform or as second chances. Progressive reformershad dismissed the penal policies that were prevalent in the previouscentury as restrictively rigid, instead advocating for the taking upof the treatment model alongside indeterminate sentencing (Champion,2002).On the same note, the reformers saw deviant behavior as different inthe case of every offender, with the individual variations revolvingaround the particulars pertaining to a convict’s life history,either as a result of maladapted psychological mechanisms or evenfaulty environmental conditions. This resulted in the desire tocustomize the criminal justice procedures, where the probationofficer diagnosis of the problem would form the basis forcustomization of the sentence.

Inthe 1960s, correctional practice mainly incorporated therehabilitative ideal where the community supervision officers tookresponsibility for rehabilitating the offenders. Indeed, the mainfocus was primarily on offenders rather than their offenses all in aneffort to prevent crimes in the future.

TheProgressive movement philosophy was largely unchallenged through the60s until early 70s when it was attacked fiercely. Indeed, criticsquestioned the rehabilitation assumptions and argued that it wasimmoral and unethical for individuals to be given indeterminatesentences on the basis of the perceived characteristics of theoffender and the coerced participation in the rehabilitation programs(Champion,2002).This criticism resulted in alterations and changes on the practice ofparole and probation although there was not complete abandonment ofthe rehabilitative orientations.

Thesubsequent model that took up the neoclassical scheme enabledoffenders to be punished and sentenced for their past offences ratherthan the prospects of what they would do in the future. This wasbased on the necessity of coming up with a system where the penaltywas fair, just and exact for the crime. This sentence was clearlyarticulated right ahead of the sentencing and applied uniformly toevery person.

Further,the rehabilitative model of probation and parole was criticized forits treatment of individuals as objects. The subsequent justice modelsaw punishment as a form of debt that offenders owed to the societyas a result of the crime that they did.

However,the neoclassical models of parole and rehabilitation were abandonedas a result of their unpersuasive nature as they did not sufficientlyaddress concerns regarding crime control. Indeed, the explodingprison populations had resulted in numerous individuals beingreleased before serving their full sentences and being placed onprobation. This resulted in intensification of feelings ofvulnerability to crime (Abadinsky,2006).In essence, the rationale for sentencing changed from neoclassicalassumptions to preferences for control and incapacitation restrictedto the principle of just deserts. Eventually, there came up a newsentencing philosophy named the intensive supervised probation andparole programs, which primarily concentrated on enhancing theintensity of supervision as this was assumed to have a positiverelationship to a successful outcome (Abadinsky,2006).Of particular note is the fact that this philosophy that guidesparole and probation lays emphasis on increased surveillance,control, as well as increased contacts compared to conventionalsupervision. Indeed, the ISP programs emphasized on offender control,where the main goal was preventing the probationers from re-offendingor breaching the other conditions pertaining to their release through minimizing their chances and propensity for doing it. Inessence, the goals of ISP were and still are incapacitation of theoffenders and deterrence via intensive regulation, as well asmonitoring og the conduct and whereabouts of offenders, as well ascorresponding enhanced threat of detection, and the strictimplementation of consequences in case the offender violates suchconditions.

Inconclusion, parole and probation have been some of the mostcontroversial correction and rehabilitation programs. Both of themhave their origins traced to around mid 19thcentury. Their main goal was primarily rehabilitation of theindividuals and decongesting the prison facilities. However, it haswell been acknowledged that they have undergone changes over theyears with their guiding philosophy changing from time to time all inan effort to make them all-rounded up (Abadinsky,2006).Indeed, it became apparent that it was wrong morally and ethically toincarcerate individuals on the basis of their future behavior ratherthan based on the crimes that they committed. Indeed, such manners ofsentencing eliminated elements of uniformity pertaining tosentencing. Whether or not the current guiding principles forprobation and parole work is still subject for debate. However, it isevident that the principles must persistently be reinvented so as toensure that they meet the current needs.


Abadinsky,H. (2006).&nbspProbationand parole: Theory and practice.Upper Saddle River, N.J: Pearson/Prentice Hall.(Petersilia,2002)(Worth,2002)

Champion,D. J. (2002).&nbspProbation,parole, and community corrections.Upper Saddle River, N.J: Prentice Hall.

Petersilia,J. (2002).&nbspReformingprobation and parole in the 21st century.Lanham, Md: American Correctional Association.

Worth,R. (2002).&nbspProbationand parole.Philadelphia, PA: Chelsea House Publishers.