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What is a Probation Order?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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A probation order is a court order setting out the terms of a conditional release of a prisoner. People can be offered probation in lieu of spending time in prison, or can serve part of a sentence in prison and part out on probation. If the probation order is violated, the criminal must return to prison to serve out the sentence. Law enforcement officers known as probation officers are responsible for supervising inmates on probation and making reports to the court.

A judge will consider probation in a case when a prisoner does not appear to pose a threat to members of the public. The probation order can set out limits like not associating with certain people, staying away from some locations, refraining from illegal activities, and participating in a rehabilitation program. The goal of the probation order is to allow the person to integrate into the community while serving the sentence, potentially providing an opportunity to rehabilitate and become a productive member of society.

Sending people out on probation can save money for the legal system. Keeping people in prison can become costly, especially if special security measures are needed to protect inmates from each other. Probation is less expensive, requiring payment to a single law enforcement officer who oversees a number of inmates rather than maintenance of a prison system. As long as a criminal seems unlikely to repeat a crime, a probation order can be written to allow that person to serve out the sentence in the community.

Victims may have input on the sentencing process, including the determination of whether someone should be allowed probation. Victims can also request special terms on a probation order, like an order to stay away or a mandate to participate in a community service program. While victims cannot dictate the wording of the order, their input is considered by the judge in the process of developing the order, and victim advocates may be involved in the process of facilitating communications between victims and the courts.

Once a probation order is issued, the terms will be explained and the inmate will usually need to sign a document indicating understanding and acceptance of the terms. The probation order includes a warning that failing to adhere to the terms can result in being sent back to prison, depending on the nature of the offense. Probation officers are involved in determining whether a probation violation should send someone back to prison, or be forgiven because there were special circumstances.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a MyLawQuestions researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By AnswerMan — On Apr 22, 2014

I never understand how anyone would even consider violating the terms of a probation order. If I did something stupid because of gang affiliation or drug addiction, the first thing I'd do after getting probation is move out of the area or get into drug rehab. If a judge is willing to let me walk almost free among regular citizens, the least I can do is act right. I've heard of people getting busted on a parole violation within a week of being released. They just couldn't handle life outside of prison and did something minor but illegal in order to get sent back inside.

By Cageybird — On Apr 21, 2014

Not that I plan on doing anything criminal any time soon, but if I were convicted of a crime, I'd hope my defense attorney would be able to argue for a probation order. I have heard about the horrors of prison life, and I know I'm not cut out for long term incarceration. There'd be no way I'd even consider violating the terms of my parole, especially if the punishment was going back to a prison cell.

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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