Difference Between Probation and Parole (With Table)

Probation and parole are privileges provided to convicted criminals subject to good behavior. However knowing the difference between the two terms is important for an offender to know what action they must take and the time period that may affect them.

Probation vs Parole

The main difference between probation and parole is that Probation is a type of sentence for an offender where he is convicted without having to serve time in prison. Parole is an early release from prison for an inmate without the conclusion of his jail term.

The purpose behind probation and parole is rehabilitation of the criminal to reduce the probability that the offender will commit crimes in the future.

However both probation and parole are granted to the offender based on certain conditions that must be fulfilled. Noncompliance of these condition could result in revocation of the privilege.


Comparison Table Between Probation and Parole (in Tabular Form)

Parameter of Comparison




Probation is a part of the sentence where the person is allowed out of jail in the society while following certain rules and conditions.

Parole is early release from the prison for an offender who has served only a part of his original sentence.

Who determines eligibility?

The judge determines whether a defendant should get probation or not.

It is determined by an independent board who considers several factors before granting a parole.

Primary Difference

It is part of a criminal sentence.

It is after the release from prison.


It is part of the initial sentence.

It is much later allowing a person early release from the prison.

Person convicted

Offender is pleaded guilty for misdemeanor.

Offender is pleaded guilty for felonies.


What is Probation?

Probation is the timeframe during which the person is not sent to prison. When an offender receives a probation, instead of sending them to jail, the judge gives them an opportunity to rehabilitate.

If the offenders does everything as instructed by the judge and follows all the conditions laid down, then they will not be sent to prison to complete their sentence.

Even though the defendant is not sent to prison but they have to follow certain terms and conditions. These could be curfew rules, participation in rehabilitation programs and carrying out drug tests on regular intervals etc.

Probation is monitored by a probation officer. The officer keeps an eye on the progress of the defendant and files a report with the judge. If the judge is not impressed by the progress of the defendant, the judge may require the defendant to return to the court for final sentencing.

After the sentencing, the offender has to serve time in the prison.


What is Parole?

Parole is the period of time after which a convicted person is released from the prison. The prisoner is released from the prison before the conclusion of the sentence. The conditions set down in parole are almost similar to those imposed under probation.

The conditions imposed under probation could be, that offender must meet the parole officer on schedule, conditions imposed on alcohol and drug use, remaining at same residence and maintaining employment etc.

Parole in managed by a parole officer. The parole officer explains the terms and conditions of the parole to the defendant and monitors his progress.

If the defendant fails to comply with the terms and conditions, then the parole officer could report to the board which granted parole to the defendant. The board may, after reviewing the case order the defendant to return to the prison to complete his sentence.

Main Differences Between Probation and Parole

Probation and parole are quiet similar in some ways, but only one could happen based on the circumstances of the case. Therefore it is very important for a defendant to know the difference between the two.

These are the main differences between probation and parole.

  1. Probation is usually part of the initial sentence where the person is allowed to spend his sentence within the community whereas parole occurs at the end of the sentence to convert the remaining time of the sentence in to a program that benefits the community.
  2. The terms and conditions imposed in probation are tough whereas parole has fewer limitations for the defendant.
  3.  The terms and conditions imposed during probation are decided by the judge whereas the terms and conditions imposed during parole are decided by the parole board.
  4. Probation is managed by a probation officer whereas parole is managed by a parole officer.
  5. The destiny of a defendant in case of probation is decided by a judge whereas a parole board decides on granting a parole to a prisoner.
  6. Probation is an alternative sentences whereas parole is a privilege granted to convectors after having served a part of their sentence subject to good behavior.
  7. Probation is solely based on the decision of the judge whereas members of the community are allowed to speak before the board responsible for making a decision on granting parole to a defendant.
  8. Probation officer deals with convicted criminals who have not gone to jail where as parole officer deals with convicted criminals who have served a part of their sentence.
  9. A person granted probation have mixed feelings because on one hand they’ve been convicted but on the other hand they don’t need to serve any jail time whereas a person granted parole is happy because he or she is released from the prison.



Probation and parole are very confusing terms. To summarize, probation allows the defendant to carry out his criminal sentence in the community without having to go to prison whereas parole is an early release from prison subject to good behavior supervised by a parole officer.

It is important for a defendant to know the difference between the two terms so that he or she must take reasonable measures and know how it may affect him or her later.

The sole purpose behind granting probation and parole to a convict is to help the offender rehabilitate and break the bad habits so that he or she could become a positive influence to the community.



  1. https://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/abs/10.1086/449215
  2. https://www.prisonlegalnews.org/media/publications/bjs%20parole%20and%20probation%202004.pdf