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What is the difference between probation and parole?

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Quick Answer

Probation is part of an initial sentence that a convicted offender receives in lieu of prison, while parole is an early release status that an offender receives after serving prison time, explains Nolo. A judge sentences an offender to probation, but a parole board grants parole.

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What is the difference between probation and parole?
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Full Answer

Sometimes judges hand down split sentences, which means that offenders must serve both jail time and probation, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. During probation, offenders may be under active supervision, which requires them to report to probation officers on a regular basis. Some offenders on probation have specific conditions attached to their sentence, such as good conduct, participation in treatment programs, or payment of fees or fines. If they do not comply with the conditions of probation, they may have to serve time in prison.

Prisoners receive parole at the discretion of a parole board or due to the provisions of a legal statute, states the Bureau of Justice Statistics. To maintain parole status, parolees must follow all imposed conditions, such as regular reporting and proper conduct in the community. Compliance with the conditions of parole may result in a reduction in sentence or the termination of parole, while noncompliance may result in a return to prison.

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