Understanding the differences between probation and parole is something that most people never have to worry about. These two programs are often lumped together; however, they are actually two very different programs.
Probation is an alternative to jail or prison. This is something that a judge can sentence someone to if the person isn't going to jail or prison. While it is possible to add a probation sentence to an incarceration term, this isn't something that is common.
Parole is a release from prison that comes with very specific requirements. A judge can inform the criminal justice system that the person can be considered for parole once he or she serves a specific portion of his or her sentence; however, the judge won't demand that a person is let out on parole.
When a person is sentenced to probation, he or she will have to report to a probation officer within a specified time after the sentencing. They will know how long they are going to serve on probation, and the clock starts at the sentencing hearing.
A person who is eligible for parole isn't guaranteed to be released from prison. Instead a parole board must review the case to determine if parole is suitable. If the person is approved for parole, a parole plan that includes housing and other information must be put into place. The person will have a specific amount of time to report to the parole officer once he or she is released from prison.
The terms of probation and parole are similar, but not exactly alike. In most cases, parolees have terms that are stricter than probationers. In both cases, the person can face a violation if he or she doesn't fully comply with the terms of the program as stipulated in his or her case. This involves a court proceeding before a judge and can end in incarceration.
Source: FindLaw, "What's Difference Between Parole and Probation?," Stephanie Rabiner, Esq., accessed Oct. 12, 2017