Unit 2 Discussion Probation and Parole


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Course Learning Outcomes for Unit II Upon completion of this unit, students should be able to:

3. Summarize the history and current administration of probation and parole. 3.1 Summarize the development of probation in the United States. 3.2 Summarize the development of parole in the United States. 3.3 Summarize the historical importance of the predecessors to probation and parole.

7. Analyze the role of probation and parole officers.

7.1 Explain the roles of the first probation and parole officers. 7.2 Explain the necessity of probation and parole officers.

8. Examine the importance of supervision in probation and parole.

Reading Assignment Chapter 2: How Probation Developed: Chronicling Its Past and Present Chapter 3: History of Parole and Mandatory Release

Unit Lesson Understanding the history of probation and parole is important because it helps us to see how we developed the system that we use today. In fact, many of the current supervision and administration practices that are used in probation and parole differ very little from the original concepts developed hundreds of years ago. In ancient times, such as in the time of the Code of Hammurabi, most crimes were punished with physical torture or death (King & Horne, 1915). Even fast forwarding to the thirteen colonies (of the present day United States of America), physical torture and death were used often for punishment for crimes (Alarid, 2015). Fines were also sometimes imposed, and failure to pay those fines resulted in imprisonment in “debtor’s prison.” Our early colonial criminal justice system continued to use the forms of punishment that were familiar to them because these were the traditional punishments inflicted for crimes in their native lands and they made the most sense to them as a society. Punishments for various crimes also varied based upon how seriously the society viewed that offense. For example, in medieval times, property crimes were punished very seriously because many people were fighting for land ownership during that period (Alarid, 2015). As we began to evolve as a society in the United States, we modeled a lot of our criminal justice system after the system of the English; however, because we developed a constitution that provided for more justice for the common man, we modified the system to be more fair and reasonable. As you will see as you read the chapters assigned for this unit, the modern probation and parole systems developed out of the goals of the criminal justice system—rehabilitation, incapacitation, deterrence, restitution, and punishment (Abadinsky, 2012). Our probation and parole systems have also oscillated, as discussed in the introduction, between the main goals of rehabilitation and punishment. As the pendulum for the entire system has swung back and forth throughout the years, so has the administration of probation and parole. In the United States, credit for the development of probation is given to John Augustus of Boston, Massachusetts, and his way of administering probation can be considered the very first casework model (Alarid, 2015). He believed that individuals who fell victim to the “evils” of alcohol could be rehabilitated, and he literally conducted the first presentence investigations with offenders because he interviewed potential


Historical Development of Probation and Parole

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candidates for his program and determined, based upon their responses, those who were ready to change. He bonded these individuals out of jail, and with the approval of the judge, took them under his supervision to learn a trade and maintain sobriety (Alarid, 2015). He provided reports to the court on how each individual under his care was doing, and as long as the offender was doing well, the judge gave the individual a lesser punishment for his offense (Alarid, 2015). As you move on in this course, reflect on how this account compares to the work that probation officers are doing today, and you will see a lot of similarities. Other jurisdictions and states took notice of this practice and began to implement similar practices and eventually, legislation within those states, until probation spread to all the states. Each state chose under which branch of government probation should operate. Some states chose to have probation operate under the judicial branch and work on a local, county level, while other states chose to have probation operate under the executive branch and work on the full state level (Alarid, 2015). You will see that there are pros and cons to the administration of probation under each of these branches in another unit. While all this work was occurring on the state level, it was very difficult to convince the federal justice system that probation was effective in dealing with offenders, mainly because in the early 1900s there were very few crimes that were considered federal crimes, and the federal system was not crowded and in need of different sentencing options. It was not until 1925 that the federal system adopted a probation system, and over the next 30 years the organization of federal probation would change many times (Alarid, 2015). As our society evolved further, the criminal justice system also recognized that those under the age of 18 did not have the same capacity to understand their actions and the consequences of their actions. The first juvenile court was established in Chicago, Illinois, in 1899 with the philosophy that many circumstances beyond a juvenile’s control contributed to their criminal behavior, and juveniles needed to be treated differently than adults (Alarid, 2015). The court system even went so far as to appoint itself the temporary guardian, or parens patriae, of the juvenile in cases where the court found that the minor had been neglected or was in need of guardianship (Alarid, 2015). As you will see when you study the current juvenile justice system, this exact same practice is employed today. While the concept of probation was coming to fruition, so was the idea of parole. Alexander Maconochie, a British naval captain, is credited with the development of parole. He ran a penal colony on Norfolk Island, off the coast of Australia, but under English control. He instituted a marks system under which prisoners were rewarded for good behavior and participation in programs by earning a mark, and a mark was removed from the prisoner for bad behavior or not participating in prison labor (Alarid, 2015). The more marks an individual earned, the more privileges he was allowed, and this even contributed to the prisoner being released earlier from his sentence. As long as the inmate earned enough marks and behaved well, he could go out into the community and work under a ticket-of-leave, but poor conduct in the community would result in his return to the penal colony for the remainder of his sentence. Sir Walter Crofton studied the system that Maconochie developed and modified it for his prison in Ireland, and the Irish System was comprised of levels of privileges and freedoms as a reward for good behavior and participation in programs (Alarid, 2015). Parole was adopted in the United States under the design of Zebulon R. Brockway, the prison superintendent of the Elmira Reformatory in New York. Brockway had studied the Irish System and implemented educational and work programs into his institution as well as a graduated system based upon good conduct and the ability to be released in the community under the supervision of volunteers (Alarid, 2015). This practice of implementing a point system for increasing or decreasing inmate privileges continues today in jails, prisons, and juvenile-detention facilities. While the aspect of risk also plays into the amount of privileges an inmate or resident will receive, especially in regards to supervision and movement, small privileges can still be granted to higher risk offenders in order to maintain compliance and reward good behavior. As the administration of probation and parole in the United States evolved, the way in which it was administered changed. Originally, the casework model developed by Augustus was used, and probation officers were seen as counselors who helped the offenders change their behavior. Two things happened that caused this model to be deemed ineffective. First, caseload sizes grew to the point where probation officers did not have the time to be counselors and social workers to all of their clients. Second, more social-service agencies began to be available in the community, and these agencies were better suited to help these offenders than were the probation officers. This led to the brokerage of services model, in which the probation officer identified the needs of his or her clients and then referred them to the appropriate agencies for services (Alarid, 2015). Probation officers would then check in with these social-service agencies to make sure that offenders were receiving services and making progress. At the same time that the criminal justice system’s pendulum swung to the get tough on crime mentality, the administration of probation changed to the justice model in which the focus of rehabilitation shifted to deterrence and punishment (Alarid, 2015). Sanctions were

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used in the probation system to enhance the punishment of offenders on probation and to attempt to ensure that individuals who committed the same offenses were sentenced equally. These concepts were also applied to parole as the casework model was originally used with parolees, and after the medical model in corrections was found to be ineffective, parole also began to use the justice model. Today, both probation and parole are administered under the neighborhood-based supervision model, which is a blend of casework, brokerage of services, and the justice model (Alarid, 2015). This model was developed based on evidence-based practices, and in this model probation and parole officers assess the offender for needed services, refer the offender for the appropriate services, work with community agencies and volunteers to monitor offenders, and impose administrative sanctions for technical violations of probation and parole (Alarid, 2015). Under this model, the casework aspect of supervision is also still utilized because probation and parole officers are trained in basic counseling skills to be able to help the offender motivate himself or herself to change his or her behavior. After reading over all of the history of probation and parole, compare this history to the purpose of probation discussed on pages 28 and 29, and the justifications and functions of parole as discussed on pages 47, 48, 52, and 53 of the course textbook. What similarities do you see between the original purpose of probation and parole and today’s purpose of probation and parole? How do you see the various models of supervision incorporated into today’s probation and parole ideology? Do you think that we are meeting our overall goals of rehabilitation, punishment, deterrence, incapacitation, and restitution in today’s probation and parole systems? Where might something be lacking, and is there anything that you would change?

References Abadinsky, H. (2012). Probation and parole: Theory and practice (11th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice

Hall. Alarid, L. F. (2015). Community-based corrections (10th ed.). Belmont, CA: Cengage Learning. King, L. W. (Trans), & Horne, C. F. (Commentary). (1915). The Code of Hammurabi. Retrieved from


Suggested Reading The following webpage gives a brief history of both probation and parole over the past 100 years. American Probation and Parole Association. (2013). History of probation and parole. Retrieved from

http://www.appa-net.org/eweb/Resources/PPPSW_2013/history.htm The following webpage highlights the current statistics on the number and characteristics of individuals on probation and parole supervision. Bonczar, T., & Herberman, E. (2013). Probation and parole in the United States, 2013. Retrieved from

http://www.bjs.gov/index.cfm?ty=pbdetail&iid=5135 A translation of the Code of Hammurabi can be viewed at the webpage below. King, L. W. (Trans), & Horne, C. F. (Commentary). (1915). The Code of Hammurabi. Retrieved from

http://www.ancienttexts.org/library/mesopotamian/hammurabi.html The following webpage gives a brief history of community-based corrections in the Federal Courts. United States Courts. (n.d.). Beginnings of probation and pretrial services. Retrieved from


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