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Past, Present and Future of Probation & Parole

Essay by   •  February 10, 2011  •  Research Paper  •  2,106 Words (9 Pages)  •  2,746 Views

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In order to study the past, present and future implications of the probation and parole system, I had to study the history of both. I will begin with the history of probation and then talk about the history of parole. I will also talk about how probation and parole work in the present and how and what will happen to both probation and parole in the future.

Probation comes from the Latin verb probare which means to prove, to rest.

Probation was first introduced to the United States in 1841 when a boot-maker by the name of John Augustus attended court to bail out a drunkard. This offender was released to the custody of Mr. Augustus making him the first true probation officer, the offender was told to return to court in three weeks time for sentencing. During the time the offender was in the custody of Mr. Augustus he cleaned up his appearance and demeanor. Mr. Augustus had the belief that abusers of alcohol could be rehabilitated through the use of understanding, kindness, and sustained moral suasion not convictions and jail sentences. His beliefs were based on his affiliation with the Washington Total Abstinence Society, they abstained from alcohol. Augustus was a volunteer probation officer for 18 years. He began the practice of evaluating the prospective probationers paying close attention to whether the candidate would prove to be a successful candidate for probation. Things that were considered in a successful candidate were the character, age, and influences, those influences could be people, places or things.

The first probation statute was first enacted 1859. The administration of the probation system varies from one state to another, some combine probation and parole.

Parole comes from the French word parole which means to give one's word of honor or promise.

The credit for establishing the early parole system goes to Alexander Maconochie who was in charge of the English penal colony at Norfolk Island, off the coast of Australia and Sir Walter Crofton, director of Ireland's prisons.

Maconochie criticized the definite prison terms so he developed a system for good conduct, labor and study. He used a process called the mark system. Through this system prisoners, progressed through stages of increasing responsibility with the reward being release. In 1840, Maconochie received a chance to use his new rewards system while he was the superintendent at the Norfolk penal colony, his criteria for prisoner release was not time served but task accomplishment. He did well with the prisoners at Norfolk. He returned to England in 1844, he campaigned for the parole system to be used. In 1849, he tried to implement the parole system when he was appointed governor of the New Birmingham prison, but met with apprehension, others believed that his methods were to lenient. Maconochie was dismissed from his position in 1851.

Sir Walter Crofton tried to implement Maconochie's system in the Irish Prison system in 1854. Croftons belief was that prison programs should be directed more towards reformation. In order for this reformation to happen Crofton thought that "tickets of leave" should be awarded to prisoners who showed a definite achievement and had a positive attitude change. He also transferred prisoners into intermediate prisons after a period in a strict imprisonment. When the prisoners were in the intermediate prisons they could then earn marks that would accumulate, these marks were received for work performance, behavior, and improvement of education. By earning enough marks, the prisoners could receive their tickets of leave and would be released on parole. Once on parole the new parolee was required to report to the police. The police would help the parolees find jobs and oversaw their activities. These contributions that Crofton made to the Irish Prison System are credited to the modern system of parole.

The implementation of the parole system in the United States was done by Zebulon Brockway. Brockway used a two part system. This system was managing the prison population and preparing the prisoners for release. He put this practice to work in 1876, after his appointment as superintendent of a youth reformatory.

Once youth were admitted to the reformatory, they were placed into a classification. This classification was termed "second grade". In order to get to "first grade" an inmate had to have six months of good behavior If the inmate misbehaved they were sent to "third grade", from this grade the inmate would have to work his way back up. Once an inmate maintained good behavior at the first grade level, they were released. However, this release did not get them out of the system. Now the inmate had to report to a jurisdiction of authorities for six months. The report was done on the first day of the month. This report was made to a volunteer guardian, this is where parole officers came from. Reporting to the parole officer, the parolee had to provide accountings of his situation and conduct.

The first state to adopt a parole system was New York in 1907. By 1927, there only three states that had not instituted a parole system, they were Florida, Mississippi, and Virginia. By 1942 all of the states, and the federal government had instituted such systems as were introduced by Maconochie, Crofton and Brockway.

Today the use of probation is the most common form of sentencing in the criminal justice system. The probationer is placed under the supervision and care of probation staff. As long as the probationer maintains certain standards of contact they can remain "free". A violation of probation can lead to imprisonment. In 1995 over three million adults were on probation.

Even though probation is widely used is comes under much criticism. The criticism comes from the idea that it is soft on crime, cares little for the victims and ignores the predatory criminals. Public image of probation is poor and misunderstood. The other issue that face probation is the lack of funding, this lack of funding often leads to not enough supervision of the probationer. In more urban areas those on probation are often assigned to a probation officer that is handling a case load of a hundred plus cases. In this situation offenders can often complete their probation without completing specified requirements; court fees can go unpaid and as long as the offender is not arrested, they can "sail" through the system. The issue with this is that it makes a mockery of the system. It is not necessarily the system that is fault but how it is managed.

Some benefits to probation are that

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