Probation is the single most used criminal punishment in the U.S. When carefully administered, and applied only to those who can safely be monitored in the community, it can provide rehabilitation and reintegration of the offender into society, ultimately helping to reduce crime. Since 1908, the Suffolk County Department of Probation has maintained a high standard of public safety by providing solutions to crime, delinquency, and families in crisis. Each year thousands of residents come to probation seeking our assistance in preparing court petitions involving family offenses, custody and visitation, support and persons in need of supervision (PINS). The department of probation provides public safety through supervision, treatment, planning and prevention. Suffolk County probation officers are peace officers with dual responsibilities of public safety and rehabilitation. Their ultimate goal is to stop the cycle of crime and prevent offenders from future criminal justice involvement.
Probation is an alternative to incarceration that permits offenders to live and work in the community, support their families, receive rehabilitative services and make restitution to the victims of their crimes. It also addresses juvenile crime with early intervention for youth at risk.
As a judicial disposition, the convicted offender’s freedom in the community is subject to the supervision of a probation officer and to conditions imposed by the court (e.g., maintain employment, make restitution, or stay away from certain people or places). If a probationer fails to honor the mandated provisions, the probation officer can file a violation of probation and recommend that probation be revoked. The probationer will then be ordered to appear in court for a hearing to determine whether he/she violated a condition of his probation. If it is determined that he/she has, the court may impose a sentence of incarceration.
New York State law requires county governments and the City of New York to operate probation departments and to provide various state-mandated services that are related to the sentencing function. Standards promulgated by the state require specific education and training for probation officers and regulate the conduct of pre-sentence investigations, the content of presentence reports, and the manner in which probation supervision is provided.
In most New York State counties, intensive supervision probation is also available for felony convicted offenders. The reduced probation caseloads and greater frequency of contact distinguishes this form of probation from regular probation. In selected cases, intensive supervision probation may be appropriate for persons with mental illness who may otherwise face incarceration.
Probation as a Cost-Effective Sanction
Probation offers maximum benefit to the public. The cost of probation supervision in Suffolk is approximately $4.00 per day, as compared to $125.00 per day to house an offender in our local jail. Probation is one of the only areas in the criminal justice system that generates substantial reimbursement for programs that protect the community. All fees collected by Suffolk County Probation are revenue for Suffolk County.
Difference Between Probation and Parole
Probation refers to adult offenders whom courts place on supervision in the community through a probation agency, generally in lieu of incarceration. However, some jurisdictions do sentence probationers to a combined short-term incarceration sentence immediately followed by probation, which is referred to as a split sentence. Probations can have a number of different supervision statuses including active supervision, which means they are required to regularly report to a probation authority in person, by mail, or by telephone. Some probationers may be on an inactive status which means they are excluded from regularly reporting, and that could be due to a number of reasons. For instance, some probationers may be placed on inactive status immediately because the severity of the offense was minimal or some may receive a reduction in supervision and therefore may be moved from an active to inactive status. Other supervision statuses include probationers who only have financial conditions remaining, have absconded, or who have active warrants. In many instances, while on probation, offenders are required to fulfill certain conditions of their supervision (e.g., payment of fines, fees or court costs, participation in treatment programs) and adhere to specific rules of conduct while in the community. Failure to comply with any conditions can result in incarceration.
Parole refers to criminal offenders who are conditionally released from prison to serve the remaining portion of their sentence in the community. Prisoners may be released to parole either by a parole board decision (discretionary release/discretionary parole) or according to provisions of a statute (mandatory release/mandatory parole). This definition of parole is not restricted to only prisoners who are released through a parole board decision, but also includes prisoners who are released based on provisions of a statute. Parolees can have a number of different supervision statuses including active supervision, which means they are required to regularly report to a parole authority in person, by mail, or by telephone. Some parolees may be on an inactive status which means they are excluded from regularly reporting, and that could be due to a number of reasons. For instance, some may receive a reduction in supervision, possibly due to compliance or meeting all required conditions before the parole sentence terminates, and therefore may be moved from an active to inactive status. Other supervision statues include parolees who only have financial conditions remaining, have absconded, or who have active warrants. Parolees are also typically required to fulfill certain conditions and adhere to specific rules of conduct while in the community. Failure to comply with any of the conditions can result in a return to incarceration. Excerpt above is from The Bureau of Justice Statistics.