For some, there might be some confusion when it comes to parole and probation since from the outside both equate to not having to be in prison but there are actually huge differences in the inner working of both to the point where they are actually not very similar. Here is a rundown.
Parole requires time served
The largest difference between parole and probation is in regards to time served. With probation, most often the defendant won’t have ever spent any time in jail beyond the point of arrest and subsequent bail. However, with parole, it is usually granted when you have completed a certain amount of time served and is considered a reward for good behavior while incarcerated.
Probation is usually only an option for first-time offenders
For most defendants, outside of all charges being dropped, probation is the most ideal scenario since it is the option that keeps you out of jail but it is not always so easy to get probation and it can depend on a few different things. The first is the type of judge the defendant gets. Some judges tend to be more lenient while other will make a point to make an example out of the defendant which could take probation off the table if the judge feels that detainment will have benefit. The other thing that will make a huge difference is if the defendant has a previous record because this will in most cases guarantee that probation for the most part is off the table. It is not always a definite but probation is typically reserved as almost a warning to detainment should the defendant have other run-ins with the law.
Parole requires a board to make a decision
The final difference between parole and probation is who makes the judgement. When it comes to probation, a single judge can hand down that verdict while a parole hearing is different. When the time comes when a defendant is eligible for parole, they will have a hearing in front a board or panel and discuss why they think they should be let out for parole. After the hearing the board will together decide if parole will be granted.
In conclusion, while the end result is more freedom for the defendant, the way that it is established is extremely different and difficult to compare in a similar manner.