Probation offers some offenders the opportunity to stay in the community instead of serving time in prison. Since the beginning of community supervision in 1841, probation has proven to be an effective method of rehabilitation, which often benefits offenders, victims and society alike. However, some negative effects occur as well. Probation impacts each one of these areas in a variety of ways.
History of Probation
John Augustus of Boston, Massachusetts, known as the Father of Probation, first convinced the courts to release truant individuals into his custody in 1841. He believed that these people could reform with proper guidance. He expanded his efforts to include children and single-handedly effected the release of over 1,100 people by 1852. By 1878, the Massachusetts courts implemented probation statewide, and all states followed suit with juvenile probation by 1930.
Effects on Offenders
Probation provides many offenders, especially drug offenders or other low-risk individuals, an alternative to incarceration. Families can remain together, and parents can work and remain a stable presence in their households. The probation department can work to rehabilitate the offender through a variety of social services, such as drug or alcohol treatment or life skills classes. According to the website, Right on Crime, this can reduce the likelihood of the offender committing future crimes, thus preventing him from becoming a career criminal. The probationer does not have to spend time in prison, costing taxpayers thousands of dollars. If the offender is out of custody and working, he will be able to pay restitution to his victim. However, some offenders do not respond to probation intervention strategies and take advantage of their freedom by committing new crimes.
Effects on Society
Probation reduces taxpayer costs by keeping individuals out of prison. According to the book "Introduction to Criminal Justice," probation costs about $2,000 yearly while prison costs about $25,000 per year. When these individuals can remain in the community and work, it benefits not only the offender and her family but society as a whole. The individual contributes to the overall economy instead of becoming a drain on it. Transitioning to life after prison presents a challenge for the most well-intentioned individual. With probation, they do not need to do so. However, according to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistic, about 30 percent of probationers did not complete probation successfully in 2009.
Effects on Victims
Victims may be the ones most personally affected by the actions of criminals. Victims can be involved throughout the court process, attend proceedings and provide input before and at sentencing. Probation holds offenders accountable for their behavior by charging them with the responsibility of paying restitution as part of their rehabilitation. In most cases, any money the probationer pays first goes to a victim and then to other fees. In some cases, victims can confront offenders and speak about the impact of the crime on their lives. Victim Impact Panels, which involve drinking and driving offenses, are one example of this. However, sometimes victims want their offender in prison, off the streets and paying for the crime he committed.
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