A blck man with hands outside the bars of a prison cell

Many times, when you hear the word parole, it’s in conjunction with probation. These two legal terms, though, do not mean the same thing. Parole deals with the release of an offender after serving part of his or her sentence, while probation, according to FindLaw, refers to the "suspension of a jail sentence that allows a person convicted of a crime a chance to remain in the community, instead of going to jail."

What Is Parole?

When someone is released from prison on parole, he or she is released before the entire sentence handed down at trial is served. In most cases, the time spent on parole is supervised. The decision to release someone on parole is made by a parole board or it is done per statute. For example, the charge an offender may have been convicted of requires mandatory release or parole.

A parolee can have several types of supervision statuses, such as active status. This means that the offender must check in with a parole officer. Other parolees may be in an inactive status, which means they don’t have to report to a parole officer. This might be because they have met all the conditions of parole before their parole sentence is done. Other statuses may apply to those who have active warrants, have absconded or still need to pay restitution or fines.

Offenders must meet certain conditions while on parole. This can include having an acceptable home plan and employment, not drinking alcohol or using illegal drugs or not having contact with other felons. If an offender on parole violates these conditions or commits another crime, then he or she can be charged with a parole violation. The penalty for such a charge could be a return to incarceration.

How Many People Are on Parole?

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, there were almost 857,000 people on parole at the end of 2014, which is the last year data is available at this time. That total is an increase of around 1,600 offenders from the prior year. The reincarceration rate, or the percentage of parolees that were returned to prison, was about 9 percent.

Are You Facing a Parole Violation?

If you are on parole and have been accused of a violation, it’s important to understand the nature of the violation and all the possible penalties. An experienced, local attorney can help you develop a defense strategy and advise you of your options.