When it comes to determining the differences between probation, parole,
and pardon, it is important to understand the unique roles of each term.
First, probation and parole are much more similar to each other than pardon
are. While both probation and parole are used as an alternative to jail
or prison time, pardons are given by higher government powers in order
to wipe an offender’s record clean and free them from any remaining
penalties. Though a pardon does have the power to free an offender from
jail time, it goes a step further by clearing their name and criminal
record, essentially freeing them from any mark of their crime.
How Parole & Probation Differ
In many cases, probation is used prior to or instead of incarceration,
which means the offender will simply spend time on probation right away,
rather than going to jail at all. Though they may spend a short sentence
(such as a day or two) in jail, their main punishment will be served through
probation. When a person is on probation, they must adhere to certain
provisions and terms or else they will have to face the alternative of
These can include the following types of terms:
- Performing community service
- Enrolling in a rehabilitative program
- Paying restitution to a victim
- Taking frequent drug tests
- Checking in with a probation officer
- Maintaining a curfew
Probation is given directly by the court, while parole is given by the
parole board after an offender has served a minimum sentence in jail.
Parole is often given to individuals who have been on good behavior and
are deemed safe to regenerate into society. The terms involved in parole
can be very similar to the terms of probation. If a person on parole does
not follow the specific terms, they could be required to go back to jail
or prison. The point of both parole and probation are to help an offender
break and avoid habits that could lead to future crimes.
What is the purpose of a pardon?
Pardons are focused on helping individuals clear their names from their
alleged crimes, not just rehabilitate or merge back into society. It is
typically granted by higher government powers, including the president
or local governor. These powers must decide whether or not they believe
pardoning the offender will be in the public’s best interests. A
pardon will essentially wipe a criminal’s record clean and cancel
any further penalties they are facing, allowing them to immediately rejoin
society with no criminal past.
Have more questions about the alternatives to incarceration?
Reach out to Damascus Road Law Group to discuss your legal concerns.