History of Probation and Community Corrections

Probation and community corrections are just two of the many types of intermediate sanctions that make the field of community supervision. Both probation and community corrections are sentences that are imposed upon a defendant in a criminal case, and both sanctions are in lieu of physical incarceration. That is to say, the judge must include in the sentencing order that probation and/or community corrections are ordered upon the defendant and that all/or part of the incarceration sentence will be suspended and the defendant is to serve the suspended sentence on probation and/or community corrections. It is important to note that to be placed on either probation or community corrections, the defendant’s sentencing order must contain some incarceration time, as these sanctions are an intermediate sanction and are in lieu of actual prison time. Probation offices are state or county run entities and the probation officers employed in the local office, report directly to the judges in their local courts on the compliance of offender their supervision.
Up to mid-19th century, the prison system in the United States focused on the idea that persons that commit offenses against the public should be imprisoned as a form of retribution, or punishment (Scott, 1998). Prisons were not places that were thought of to be nice, comfortable, and clean. Prisons were horrible, unsanitary, dark, and damp places where inmates were mentally tortured and beaten regularly for minor infractions of the rules. Many prisons were run on the principal that solitary confinement and hard labor were the ways to cleanse the soul of evil and talking was rarely permitted between inmates (Scott, 1998).
According to Morris (1999), the age of enlightenment in the late 18th century to the early 19th century, was the beginning of a turning point in the prison reformatory movement. Philosophers and idealists, such as Beccaria and Bentham, began to question the penal system and its role in the criminal justice system and wrote continuously on the topic for many years. This idea of reformation of the prison system, gave birth to the idea of reformation of the inmate as well (Morris, 1999). In 1841, a cobbler in Massachusetts began a quest with just that goal in mind. John Augustus, was a 57 year old Boston boot maker, who believed that the prison system in the United States was too harsh on certain types of offenders. Augustus believed that a just sentence for a convicted offender should take in to consideration the person behind the crime, not just the criminal act (Lindner, 2007).
When a criminal defendant was found guilty of petty crimes and was sentenced to incarceration, Augustus would plead with the court to allow himself to “bail out” the offender from jail or prison and in return that offender would work for Augustus in his boot making shop. In return, Augustus promised the court that the offender would be on good behavior and not commit any more crimes. If the offender did not follow the conditions of his bail, he/she would be placed back in jail and Augustus would lose his bail money. It was this work that guided Augustus in the rehabilitation of criminal offenders and earned him the nomenclature, “Father of Probation” (Champion, 2002; Lindner, 2007). Today, over 3.94 million individuals are being supervised by probation and community corrections departments in the United States (Maruschak & Parks, 2012).

History of Parole

Parole services is similar to probation supervision, in that convicted offenders are released into the community, but only after the offender has spent a part of the sentence imposed by the judge in prison. According to Maruschak & Parks (2012), the definition of parole is a period of supervised release into the community, under specific conditions and guidelines. The parolee’s sentence must be executed fully, served to the amount of time state statute requires, and released to custody of the parole department. The structure and conditions of probation, community corrections, and parole will be examined later in this paper.
Again, much like in the early stages of probation services, parole services also has a “father of parole”, and his name was Alexander Maconochie. Maconochie was an Englishman and a lieutenant in the Royal Navy. After a long and distinguished career in the military, Maconochie was offered a post as the Lieutenant Governor of Tasmania around 1845, a British penal island off the southeast coast of Australia. It was a custom of the British to transport convicted criminals, and those members of society deemed to be unfit for civilized life, too far away colonies for prison sentences. Two of the most famous penal colony destinations were the United States and Australia (Ekirch, 1985).
After a short time on the island, Maconochie became appalled with the system of discipline being used to keep control of the prisoners on the island (Barry, 1956). Prisoners were often beaten, worked to the point of death, and barely given enough sustenance to survive the hard daily life of a British prisoner. Maconochie curbed the beatings of prisoners and started a program of rewards for good behavior by prisoners. The system of “marks” that was introduced by Maconochie recorded the infractions by inmates and also rewarded the inmates for good behavior and task completions. Marks could then be traded in for extra privileges and rations. This idea completely separated the punishment phase from the rehabilitation phase of an inmate’s sentence (Moore, 2001). However, the most important reformation legacy that Maconochie would leave for the prison system was the use of “tickets of leave” (Barry, 1956; Moore, 2001).

Tickets of leave was a practice that had been around in theory in the English penal system for decades before Maconochie took control of Birmingham Prison around 1850. The practice was more commonly used with prisoners of a higher status and was rarely a privilege given to the common prisoner (White, 1976). Tickets of leave could be purchased, with marks earned by the inmate, and would allow the inmate a specific amount of time outside the prison walls to roam free and conduct business as a free man. When the specific time had elapsed, the inmate was expected to return to the prison. The ticket of leave was rewarded for good behavior and could be revoked for poor behavior and the inmate would be returned to the penal colony if personal conduct became an issue (Moore, 2001). In present day, prisoners can be granted parole, or release from incarceration, for a period of time and if the parolee’s conduct is not of a high standard, then the parole can be revoked and the parolee returned to the prison to finish his/her sentence. Parole is based on the idea of tickets of leave and Maconochie, while he did not invent the idea, is credited for its use with common prisoners (White, 1976). Now that a basic understanding of the history of the three main forms of community supervision has been laid out, let us discuss the inner workings and how they differ from law enforcement in the area of search and seizure.