Probation

Probation

Outline
1. Introduction – probation as a widely spread sanction, which, though, has both strengths and challenges
2. Background of probation – the historical overview of the evolution of probation from leniency, to judicial reprieve, recognizance and to the modern concept of probation
3. The organization of probation – the debate between centralization and decentralization of probation, with the recent shift to decentralization as more effective model of organization of probation; the administration of probation – the competition of judicial and executive branches
4. The dual function of probation – two major functions: supervision and investigation; both functions are closely intertwined and essential for the effective probation
5. The effectiveness and prospects of probation – conclusion, summarizing key points of the paper; positive assessment of probation as a highly efficient and prospective sanction that can be successfully applied at larger scale in the future
6. References

Introduction
Today, probation plays an extremely important role in the contemporary society because it is a widely used sanction that is applied to offenders in the USA. In fact, probation performs a very important social role because it can be viewed as an alternative to the conventional punishment of criminals. At the same time, probation aims not only at the punishment of offenders, which is not actually the major goal of probation at all, but it is mainly focused on the prevention of crimes, deviant behavior and cases of recidivism, especially among the population released from prisons.
Obviously, probation basically meets the modern standards in regard to the prevention of crimes and this sanction can be considered quite efficient since it does not implies the imprisonment of an offender, on the condition of his or her good behavior. As a result, both the society and an offender can potentially benefit since, on the one hand, the society can save costs on maintenance of prisons and incarcerated population, while offenders get an opportunity to change their lifestyle, behavior and start a new, normal life, being under supervision in terms of probation.
However, in the modern society, the judicial system and law enforcement agencies can face a number of problems related to probation since often people believe they can totally secured if offenders are sent to prison, while probation may be an ineffective sanction which cannot really protect them from victimization from the part of offenders. In such a way, people need to be sure in the effectiveness of probation. In this regard, law enforcement agencies need to work on the improvement of probation in order to insure the public safety and prevent cases of recidivism from the part of offenders on probation.

Background of probation
In fact, probation is not a totally new concept. In actuality, sanctions which are similar to modern probation or which can be viewed as precursors of modern probation can be traced back to the 13th century, when people accused in serious offenses could appeal to the judge for leniency by reading in court the text of Psalm 51 (Clear, Cole and Reising, 2008). This practice laid the foundation to the modern concept of probation, though it had little in common with modern probation. Nevertheless, in the course of time the leniency evolved and it was substituted by new sanctions applied to offenders.
In this respect, it is worth mentioning the fact that the 19th century became probably the turning point in the development of the concept of probation. It is during this epoch new forms of sanctions concerning offenders were implemented. Among the most significant innovations in the judicial system, it is possible to point out the judicial reprieve, which allowed the judge to suspend the punishment or execution of sentence in relation to an offender for a definite period of time, on the end of which an offender was obliged to undergo the punishment and serve the sentence ruled by the court.
Another important innovation was recognizance which could apply to offenders by courts. In terms of this sanction, offenders were obliged to appear in the court whenever they were called for (Clear, Cole and Reising, 2008). In fact, it was an important sanctions which became a precursor of modern concept of probation.
At the same time, the emergence of probation is basically related to the 20th century. The practice of probation was introduced to ease the pressure on prisons, when the crime rates had started to grow consistently and new sanctions were needed. These sanctions should be an alternative to conventional incarceration and implied the supervision and control over offenders from the part of courts and law enforcement agencies. In such a way, offenders preserved relative freedom, but remained under the supervision and control that was supposed to prevent them from committing new crimes. In fact, the application of probation became particularly significant as a measure which could prevent cases of recidivism since offenders released from prison could have remained on probation for a definite period of time, during which the commitment of offense would put them under a risk of being sent to prison. Basically, this principle of supervision persists till present days, but it is important to underline that, today, probation is used consistently more frequently than it used to be in the past, to the extent that about a half of all adults under correctional supervision are on probation (Clear, Cole and Reising, 2008).
The organization of probation
The role of probation can hardly be underestimated in the modern judicial system. At the same time, specialists (Reiman, 2003) argue concerning the effective application of probation in the modern society. In actuality, one of the major problems is the approach used to probation. To put it more precisely, probation can be either centralized or decentralized. In this regard, specialists (Clear, Cole and Reising, 2008) argue that both centralization and decentralization of probation has its own advantages and drawbacks. The centralized probation implies the existing of the administrative body that supervises probation at the state level. In such a situation, the administrative body can maintain the control over and supervision of offenders on probation statewide. Basically, centralization allows concentrating data on offenders on probation within one agency, where highly qualified professionals are employed. On the other hand, the decentralization of probation, makes supervision and control over offenders more flexible. What is meant here is the fact that offenders are under the control of the administrative body which operates at the local level, i.e. the level of a city or county.
As a result, this agency can perform functions of supervision and control within the city or county limits, while the smaller size of the agency, compared to centralized administrative body, makes it more flexible and able to respond adequately to action or inaction of offenders on probation. Anyway, it is obvious that decentralized probation eliminates such a serious problem of centralized probation as bureaucracy. Therefore, decentralized probation is closer to offenders as well as to the local community and, thus, it can be viewed as more effective, though the prospects of the total shift from centralized to decentralized probation are still uncertain.
Another significant problem of the organization of modern probation is the problem of administration of probation. In this respect, there tow major “rivals” for the administration of probation: judicial branch and executive branch. Traditionally, judicial branch played the dominant role in the administration of probation, but, today, when the trends to decentralization of probation and integration of offenders on probation into local communities grow stronger, the administration of probation by executive branch seems to be more effective because executive branch has larger opportunities to supervise probation and meet the needs of both offenders and local community.
The dual function of probation
Even though the supervision may seem to be the major function of probation, the modern probation performs two functions: the function of supervision and the function of investigation (Clear, Cole and Reising, 2008). In actuality, the function of supervision implies that administrative body that administers probation focuses on the supervision of offenders. Probation officers control the behavior of offenders, their location and movement, in order to prevent the commitment of crimes or violation of rules of probation. At the same time, probation officers do not interfere into the life of offenders but offenders are obliged to inform probation officers regularly about their location and current position.
At the same time, probation implies the investigation because it is necessary to maintain control over behavior and actions of offenders on probation. To meet this goal, it is necessary to investigate their life and behavior, on the basis of evidences received from people who live or work with offenders on probation or who know them. In such a way, due to investigation it is possible to empower the supervision function of probation.
The effectiveness and prospects of probation
The popularity of probation can be explained by its seeming effectiveness. In fact, it is a very effective function because it proves to be effective in regard to both the community and offenders. Obviously, community face a risk of recidivism from the part of offenders on probation, but the community can ensure its safety being aware of possible danger and being protected by law enforcement agencies and probation administrative body. At the same time, offenders have an opportunity to lead a normal life and live in the community that facilitates their integration in the normal social life.
Hence, it is possible to speak about good prospects of probation. It is possible to presuppose that probation will grow even more popular than it is at the moment because it meets the strategic direction in the development of modern judicial system, which tends to distance from punitive approach and focuses on the integration of offenders into the normal social life. In such a context, probation can be a very effective sanction compared to conventional imprisonment, for instance, while its democratic and socially-oriented nature opens huge opportunities for the further development of probation as a mainstream sanction.

References:
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Brantingham, P. J. and P. L Brantingham. (1991). Environmental Criminology. Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland Press.
Braithwaite, J. (1995). “Not Just Deserts. A Republican Theory of Criminal Justice.” Law and Society Review, 28:4, pp. 765-776.
Clear, T.R., J.F. Cole and M.D. Reising. (2008). American Corrections. New York: Thomson Wadsworth.
Hayward, K. J. (2004). City Limits: Crime, Consumerism and the Urban Experience. New York: Routledge.
Kautt, P. and C. Spohn. (Mar 2002). “Cracking down on black drug offenders? Testing for interactions among offend” Justice Quarterly : JQ; 19, 1;
Reiman, J. (2006). The Rich Get Richer and The Poor Get Prison. New York: Random House.
Stewart, G.W. (2003). The US Justice System. New York: Random House.