The punishment of probation for convicted offenders

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Traditionally, convicted offenders have been punished through probation (released with supervision) or incarceration: in some cases both forms of punishment are used. Nevertheless in recent years several counties in California have cut down on probation services because of increasing budgetary deficits.

On the other hand the rapidly rising number of sentenced offenders has been mounting pressure on the local court system as well as county jails causing them to opt for probation referrals. This causes county probation officers to handle more case loads relating to adult felons, this lead to poor supervision.

Parole and probation have similar roles but each is connected to a different department of the justice system. Parole is carried out by the state while probation is carried out by counties. Parole involves release from prison which is conditional. In California, parole is carried out through the department of corrections. On the other hand, probation is often used instead of jail incarceration and is currently being carried out to reduce crowding in jails. Probation cannot be considered as a right granted to the offender but is generally taken to be act of clemency and grace (Horatio Alger, 2008).

It's possible for someone to be on parole and probation at the same time. Such a situation occurs when the offender commits 2 separate crimes. According to Charles B. Fields (1994) an offender can be sentenced to prison for one of the crimes and then later be paroled; at the same time he may be put on probation for the second offence. Usually in cases like this the probation and parole officers agree on who is to supervise the offender. The officer with the longest supervision hours normally takes charge of both supervisions, this prevents duplication of services.

According to California County data from correction department, there are currently more than two hundred and fifty felons who are handling probation and parole simultaneously. The number is anticipated to exceed more than one thousand offenders each year. The primary cause of the rapid rise in dual supervision is due to rise in felonies which can be punished through probated sentences.

The new penal code has also led to an increase in the number of offender serving both probation and parole sentences. Approximately 20 offenders were paroled and put in probation instead of being sentenced to jail. This emerging situation is now being referred to as dual supervision. Circumstances which must exist for dual supervision are:

A new offence must have been committed by an individual already under parole.

A person already under parole is convicted a second time based on the new offence and is put under probation as well as deferred adjudication.

The correction department or the parole division must give permission for the offender to continue his punishment on parole supervision while concurrently serving the second offence on probation.

There are a number of reasons why offenders are permitted to carry out dual supervision. In most cases judges may be inclined to issue probation as well as deferred adjudication if the violence committed was not violent.

In other cases, judges feel they will have more control over the felon as opposed to sentencing them to jail imprisonment for a short duration of time. Correction Boards in California usually perceive situations where judges grant probation to a person who is already serving parole sentence as acceptable as long as the nature of the crime was not violent and it was not a repeated offense.

Probation officers as well as parole officers have both law enforcement roles and rehabilitative roles; this is very common particularly in juvenile probation system. In the Law enforcement function, the probation officer acts like a control manager, a figure of authority and a threat to the conditional freedom of the offender.

In the rehabilitative function the officers act more like social workers, in this case their principal concern is usually in the offender's best interest. The probation officer must have basic know-how and skills such as good interviewing so as to acquire facts regarding the offender and differentiate between underlying and surface problems (Jamie Thompson 2004). In today's society this functions conflict and probation officers nowadays focus more on control and surveillance roles keeping the security of the society as top priority rather than rehabilitation.

In California, probation officers are acknowledged as peace officers even under statute. They are permitted to execute warrants, carry weapons as well as power to arrest and search. In effect, they serve as ears and eyes of the court. They are allowed to begin revocation proceeding in case the offender violates probation conditions.

Section 833 of the California Penal Code permits probation officers to carry out searches and take any offender into custody if he is suspected of breaching the provisions of probations.

Parole boards usually consist of five members each appointed by the governor. According to Joan Petersilia (2003), Members affiliated to the same party should not exceed three. Parole board members are appointed to serve for four years and incase of any vacancy happening prior to the expiration of a member's term, the governor shall appoint another individual to serve for the remaining period. The parole board is empowered to:

Employ personnel needed to adequately discharge the roles of the board.

Authorize parole revocation and release decisions as granted under penal code section 1233.

Make recommendations to the governor regarding clemency, pardon, remission and reprieve of offenders.

Issue subpoenas to compel any individual to appear, give documentary evidence in regard to the issue under inquiry and to compel a person to make a sworn testimony.

On the other hand probations boards have the following roles:

To protect the public

To reduce cases of re offending among felons

To carry out rehabilitation of felons

To assign appropriate punishment of felons

To manage and assess offenders in the society.

In California, probation is undertaken as a local function one of the distinct nature of the California Probation system is the use of community based correction plans and programes. Traditional punishment was imprisonment or probation, however in the late nineties the county began trying out the use of sanctions which had not been tried before and had not been incorporated into the traditional correctional system. These alternative methods became widely referred to as community based corrections. They helped solve a rising number of issues in the probation system such as crowding of prisons and rapid increase in incarceration costs.

Community based correction plans were enacted in 1965 and its main goals were to improve the rehabilitation systems as well as reduce the number of offenders in correctional institutions and prisons. In California, legislature relating to probation and parole systems is done through the board of corrections which funds all the county planning relating to community correction plans.

Sentencing has several impacts on probation. In California, probation is widely used in comparison to sentencing. In 2008, three quarters of the individuals under criminal supervision were on probation, this is approximately 4.8 million people. Court figures signify that judges convict offenders in almost equal proportion between probation and prison. Judges in California are limited to having just 3 sentencing alternatives. i.e. incarceration, probation or a combination of both. Ninety percent of all offenders are either put on probation or sentenced to jail.

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