Probation and parole are a source of confusion for many people. If you face criminal charges, it can help to understand the difference. These two terms are very similar but they also have differences between them. The main difference, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, is that probation is usually handed down as a sentence instead of a prison or jail sentence whereas parole is typically granted as an early release when you are already incarcerated.

However, to confuse things, probation sometimes is an additional part of a sentence that you will serve after you get out of jail, and parole is sometimes the sentence for certain statutes. So, both could be your original sentence or something you serve after being incarcerated.

To further confuse things, they both usually have conditions. This might include not getting into further legal trouble, not changing your residence without approval, paying fees and fines you owe and finding employment. There are also different statuses for both. They include having to report in person, reporting via the phone or not having to report at all. With both, you also run the risk of being incarcerated if you violate the conditions.

So, they are very similar in nature. Typically, though, parole is more severe, and if you violate the conditions of parole, you will almost always go back to prison. Another major point is that you usually know you will serve probation. With parole, you may or may not have to serve it. This information is for education. It is not legal advice.