Corrections and Probation

Crime is a common phenomenon, and throughout history, every society has encountered the effects of criminal acts. Given that crimes are unlikely to end, the common challenge is to reduce or prevent such incidences, especially the violent and those harming individuals’ lives. Societies have struggled to find a solution to this puzzle for many years. Various functions have been typically implemented by approved authorities to punish, treat, or supervise individuals convicted of crimes. These functions have a historical background in the practice of a recognized law, and they include corrections and probation, among others. This research’s broad concern is to trace the history of corrections and probation, its current state, and present personal thoughts on the needed changes. Corrections and probations began in England to segregate people possessed by evil spirits and demons while today, they are used to purnish criminal offenders; however, they spend a lot to do less.

Historical Context

            Corrections and probation, as it is currently recognized, can be tracked down to the use of various juridical functions seen in England and afterward in American courts. Initially, as evident in multiple nations and cultures, lawbreakers were believed to possess evil spirits and demons. The procedure for determining guilt or innocence of the accused was based on God’s decision causing the guilt to suffer or die. With time, trials by ordeals and combats were universally substituted with prosecution and jury. “Release on recognizance” or bail, for instance, enabled any defendant who agreed to the specified terms of liberation to go back to the society and wait for litigation (Gaines and Miller, 2018). Once the bail was set, the judge sometimes failed to follow up, which is similar to the current probation. A defendant was conditionally released to the society, and failure to adhere to the outlined terms of release increased the threat of revocation. Under certain situations, a defendant could be spared additional contact with the criminal justice system.           


For every England court, the judicial reprieved empowered judge to provisionally hold off imposing or executing a sentence to allow defendants to plead to the Crown for forgiveness. The suspensions were provisional, but some of the cases were discontinued.  In America, judges utilized the same power, allowing them to terminate the sentences of convicted defendants whenever justice had been miscarried. Suspending penalties gave a defendant another chance. According to Labrecque (2017), evidence of this exercise in Boston can be traced back to 1830. The end of the 19th century marked the period when these types of suspensions were challenged in a “New York state court state court in 1894, and later in the Supreme Court in 1916” (Labrecque, 2017). The two courts agreed that, based on the legislation, no judge had the power to suspend a sentence.

Simultaneously, a philanthropist, John Augustus from Boston, started to bail offenders out of courts and assume accountability for them in society. He bailed different offenders between 1841 and 1859. Moreover, for this reason, Augustus is always attributed as the creator of probation in America. He focused on bailing offenders out after being convicted. Such favor and acts of brotherhood, helping offenders acquire jobs and supporting their families in various ways, made multiple offenders to embrace the agreements willingly. Once the community’s supervision was over, the bailed offenders accompanied Augustus to the court and supported his sentencing recommendations. Labrecque (2017) outlines that because of his endeavors, John Augustus’ allegations were dispensed with incarceration.

Augustus’ probation universally resembles the present-day probation. He keenly looked at the type of prisoners that deserved probation by considering the individual’s character, age, and aspects that could affect the offender after being released. For uncertain cases, Augustus required the offenders to seek education or employment. Therefore, his activities offered the roots of current investigation processes and the common terms of the existing community supervision, like attending school or being employed. Gaines and Miller (2018) add that “shortly after Augustus published an account of his work in 1852, the Massachusetts legislature in 1878 passed a bill authorizing the city of Boston to hire a probation officer.” Exercising probation went viral in Massachusetts, leading to its adoption by different states at the end of the 19th century. For instance, from 1897 to 1920, twenty-six countries, including the District of Columbia, enacted adult probation statutes. At the end of 1927, different states besides Wyoming, had enacted certain kinds of probation laws for juveniles. Nevertheless, this was unavailable for adult offenders in America until 1956.

Even though probation has its roots in judicial reprieve and the works of John Augustus, there is no doubt that the framework of probation was rehabilitation. Labrecque (2017) quotes a statement by Augustus saying, “It became pretty generally known that my labors were upon the ground of reform, that I confined my efforts mainly to those who were indicted for their first offence, and whose hearts were not wholly depraved, but gave promise of better things . . .” Therefore, probation denotes “forgiveness” and “trial,” a time that an offender can prove himself capable of adhering to the legislation and observing the community’s rules. Court ideologies and the state statutes collaboratively agree that the ideal role of probation is to rehabilitate the concerned individuals.

The current state of correction and probation

            Today, probation is among the well-known approaches of correctional punishment for criminal acts. Offenders are allowed to stay in society; however, they are supervised by the assigned probation officer. There are more than 60% of convicted people who are sentenced to probation. Judges are legally restricted from issuing a sentence of probation except after every aspect of a crime has been addressed (“Probation today,”2020). Sentencing laws require every judge to conduct specific deductions regarding the convicted defendants, for instance, if the individual is a threat to society. Suppose not, and judges believe the offenders are apologetic for their crimes and will abide by the law in the future. In that case, probation becomes a necessary sentence, and the offenders are immediately assigned their respective probation officers.

            Before probation starts, there are requirements outlined by the judges in a contract, and offenders have to agree by signing. Such contracts specify the type of conduct, both outlawed and needed, offenders should adhere to during the specified probation time. Some of the terms associated with these contracts include “not possessing a firearm or drinking alcoholic beverages; meeting with the probation officers at assigned times; attending counseling or drug therapy sessions, and reporting any changes of address” (“Probation today,”2020). Offenders who go against the set terms of probation or commit a different crime force the judge to legally withdraw the probation and sentence the criminal to jail or prison.

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The Needed Changes

            From a personal perspective, corrections, andprobation systems, in general, should do more with less. Foremost, probation departments have the core mission of reducing probationer recidivism. Therefore, they need approaches that are crucial to attaining such a purpose. Regarding the existing practices, they should evaluate probationers’ risks of committing a crime and their strengths, referred to as “protective factors.” Employing smartly framed supervision can be useful, and this goes along with using incentives and structured sanction worth responding to a probationer’s behavior. The system should also enact performance-steered personnel management approaches that enhance and reward recidivism reduction. Maximizing the positive effect in society requires the implementation of the outlined factors. The truth is that the correctional and probation system has made attempts to put in place some of the mentioned factors in practice. Still, fewer departments have managed to structure and enact a precise plan that reflects these aspects.

Lastly, the probation system must continue to supervise, rehabilitate, and resettle offenders, rather than imposing a custodial sentence. The system needs to be categorized into departments that handle high, low, and medium risk offenders. No doubt changing departments to enact the previously outlined correctional and probation practices effectiveness can seem impossibly complicated, particularly for departments encountering funding cuts and increasing numbers of probationers. Transforming any department is not an easy or a swift procedure; however, it is possible for any department turning to pursue every step to maximize its success.

In conclusion, there are no signs of crimes coming to an end, but there is a need to reduces and prevent such incidences that are violent and harm people’s lives. Correction and probation is a practical approach that has been adopted since it was first discovered and exercised in various judicial functions seen in England and later in American courts. The works of John Augustus, a philanthropist from Boston, led to the prominence of probation, as described in the previous paragraphs. Moreover, today, probation is among the well-known approaches of correctional punishment for criminal acts. Besides, slight adjustments are needed to improve the system’s effectiveness, as discussed in this paper.


Gaines, L.K., and Miller, R.L. (2018) criminal justice in Action. The Core (9th ed0. Boston, MA: Cengage Learning

Labrecque, R. M. (2017). Probation in the United States: A historical and modern perspective

Probation today (2020) Butte County [online] Available at [accessed 29 Jul 2020]