What is probation? One of the misconceptions that many people have about probation is that it is the same thing as parole. However, a parolee is someone who has been discharged from prison prior and is supervised by the West Virginia Department of Corrections for a specified period of time.
So, what is probation? Probation is a type of court-ordered supervision that a court orders in lieu of sentencing a person convicted of a crime to prison. Probation is a second chance.
When a judge enters a probation order, the judge refers the probationer to the Probation Office. The court order contains many provisions that require the probationer to not only keep the laws that every citizen has to obey, but further to obey several special terms, conditions and behaviors ordered by the court that are tailored to the individual offender.
If a probationer violates any of the terms of the probation order, which is like a contract ordered by the court, the judge can revoke the probation and sentence the probationer to the sentence he would have received if he had not received probation. When you are on probation, you have to live an exemplary life and carry out all of the terms of the probation order, else you will face revocation of your probation and will be sentenced to prison.
One of the first terms of any probation is reporting to the Probation Office on a regular and periodic basis. Other terms might include getting and keeping a job; not consuming alcoholic beverages or other drugs; not going into establishments that sell alcoholic beverages; not spending any time in the company of another convicted criminal; not leaving the jurisdiction; making restitution (paying back the value of stolen property, for example); doing community service; and other such requirements, in addition to obeying all Federal, State and local laws, rules and ordinances.
The purpose of probation, as stated earlier, is to give a law-breaker a second chance, an opportunity to redeem oneself and become a contributing member of society instead of a burden on society. Prison is very costly and a harsh punishment, reserved for the most hardened criminals or those who have committed a very serious crime. Probation is an opportunity to prove to the court, for a specified period of time (usually several years) that you can live without breaking the law.