How Does Shock Probation Work?

People cleaning up garbage in nature
••• urbazon/E+/GettyImages

When people commit crimes and are caught, they don’t always go to jail. They could be forced to do community service, go to counseling and/or get probation time, or pay a fine.

If a young person under 18 years old breaks a law, he may be given time in a juvenile delinquent center, sent to an adult prison, or go through shock probation as an attempt to deter him from committing other crimes. Learning the definition of shock probation – and about the criminal justice system for younger people in general – is useful when dealing with a troubled teen or child.

What Is Probation?

If someone gets arrested for committing a crime but isn’t sentenced to jail time, he may be put on probation. Probation allows a parolee to stay at home and in the community under the supervision of a probation officer. The individual must check in with the probation officer and follow the rules the court established.

The parolee may have to go to rehab, see a counselor, perform community service, and submit to regular drug and alcohol testing. Additionally, the person is not allowed to own a weapon. Sometimes, an individual is given probation right off the bat, and other times, probation follows a stint in jail. Probation may last longer than jail time in some cases.

The probation officer’s job is to assess the individual to make sure the parolee is following the rules, which could mean going to community service, not using drugs or alcohol, working every day, and staying within the state. The officer may randomly visit the offender’s home to inspect it and ensure the parolee is still in town. Additionally, the parole officer usually reports back to the court to determine if and when the individual can go off probation.

Read More: How to Obtain a Petition for Shock Probation

Definition of Shock Probation

When someone – usually a young person –commits a crime, instead of giving her probation or another sentence, the judge may send her to jail for a short amount of time to “shock” the offender out of a life of crime. The goal is to show the defendant what life is really like behind bars and how painful it is to be stuck in jail away from friends and family.

An Individual Must Apply for Shock Probation

An individual must apply for shock probation. After she goes through sentencing, she must file a motion to go back to the original trial court and then get probation. The motion and accompanying hearing need to occur within a short time after the defendant goes to prison, which is typically around six months. If an individual does not file the motion in a timely manner, she may not get the right to request shock probation.

After the prison authorities receive the individual’s motion, they have to tell the court if the defendant was on good behavior and compliant while behind bars. If the individual did follow the rules, then that increases her likelihood of receiving shock probation. The court can deny the motion, which means the defendant would have to complete her jail sentence, or grant it, and the individual would go into the probation system.

How Is Shock Probation Used?

States have used shock probation for more than six decades, and some early studies demonstrated that individuals who underwent shock probation were less likely to commit crimes in the future. Usually, it’s used for young, first-time offenders who are arrested for mild crimes like theft or drug offenses. An individual who has a long rap sheet or who has committed an aggravated offense like aggravated robbery or aggravated sexual assault is not typically eligible for shock probation.

Advantages of Shock Probation

Shock probation has numerous advantages; the most obvious is that it has the power to deter someone from committing crimes. The logic is that once somebody sees how tough it is to serve time, he won’t want to break the law again. Also, since jail can be traumatic, he won’t have to go through the added trauma of a longer sentence. Instead, he can be back to his home in a short amount of time, working and getting on with his life while being a productive member of society.

The state also benefits. Since shock probation cuts a defendant’s jail time, the state doesn’t have to pay for that person to be in jail, which averages more than $31,000 per prisoner nationwide. In some states, the costs are up to $60,000 per year per prisoner, which taxpayers are required to fund.

Shock probation also emphasizes the importance of longer jail times for serious offenders. This can keep dangerous criminals off the streets and ensure communities are safer.

Disadvantages of Shock Probation

Though shock probation has many upsides, it has disadvantages as well. For instance, it can traumatize young people, since they are separated from their families and subjected to the harsh reality of jail. Also, some critics say that these individuals should not have been sentenced to jail in the first place if their crimes were minor.

In addition, while in jail, individuals may become exposed to dangerous criminals and ideas, or they may become jaded and want to commit another crime. This time, the crime may be worse. When surrounded by influential serious offenders, a young person may go back out on the streets and begin committing more severe crimes.

Since it can take a long time for paperwork to go through, a defendant may have already served the length of her sentence before she is granted shock probation.

Shock Probation vs. Split Sentencing

Another concept similar to shock probation is split sentencing. In split sentencing, the amount of time an individual spends in jail and then in probation is determined by the court. He doesn’t have to apply for probation while in jail.

In shock probation, the individual is required to spend a certain amount of time in jail (in some states, it’s six months) before he can apply for shock probation.

The Shock Probation Option

When someone is sent to jail, is a first-time offender and believes he does not deserve to serve the full sentence, he can look into his state law regarding shock probation. He can hire a lawyer to help him or do it on his own.

A court has the right to determine what kind of probation the individual will serve as well as the terms of it. For example, depending on the offense she committed, she may have to do community service or undergo drug testing.

But as long as the individual follows the rules of probation, then he is let off the hook, and his sentencing is complete. Hopefully, he won’t get in trouble again and prove that shock probation does indeed work.

Related Articles