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Probation and Parole: What’s the Difference?

Probation and Parole: What’s the Difference?

Most people have at least heard the terms “probation” and “parole,” but not everyone knows the difference between them. At their core, probation and parole have some key similarities, but it is important to understand their differences.


Probation is a sentence that does not require an offender to go to jail, also known as incarceration. An offender will be sentenced to probation instead of incarceration. When someone is on probation, they have a set of terms they must abide by. They are required to pay probation fees, meet with their probation officer regularly, refrain from drug and alcohol use, submit to drug and alcohol screens, and complete any other requirements imposed by the court.
To be put on probation, a judge must determine at the time of sentencing that the punishment for the crime committed deserves probation instead of jail time. The judge must also determine that the offender can safely return to their community under the supervision of a probation officer.


Parole, on the other hand, is not a sentence in and of itself. Parole conditionally releases a convicted offender from incarceration. Although the offender is no longer incarcerated, they are still under the watchful eye of a parole officer. Those on parole are subjected to certain terms like those on probation. However, if an offender violates any of the terms of their parole, they can be sent back to prison to finish the remainder of their sentence.

To be eligible for parole, a convicted person must have served a significant portion of their original prison sentence. They must also demonstrate good behavior during their time in prison and show that they have reformed and can safely return to society. Ultimately, a parole board will determine whether the convicted offender will be let out on parole or stay incarcerated.

Probation and parole are fairly similar – they both subject offenders to certain terms while letting them return to their communities. However, the key difference is that probation is a sentence in and of itself while parole is used to let an offender out of prison early.

If you have been charged with a crime, contact McNeelyLaw today at 317-825-5110 to talk to an experienced Indiana criminal law attorney that can help you navigate you through your case.

This McNeelyLaw LLP publication should not be construed as legal advice or legal opinion of any specific facts or circumstances. The contents are intended for general informational purposes only, and you are urged to consult your own lawyer on any specific legal questions you may have concerning your situation.

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