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Probation is the suspension of all or part of a jail sentence; the criminal who is "on probation" has been convicted of a crime, but instead of serving jail time, has been found by the Court to be amenable to probation and will be returned to the community for a period in which they will have to abide to certain conditions set forth by the Court under the supervision of a probation officer; or has served part of the sentence but has been released before its end. General conditions may include maintaining employment, abiding to a curfew, living where directed, abstaining from unlawful behavior, following the probation officer's orders, not absconding, and refraining from contact with other individuals, who may include victims of the original crime (such as a former partner in a domestic violence case), potential victims of similar crimes (such as minors when the crime involves child sexual abuse), potential witnesses, or those who have partnered with the offender in the earlier crime. In some cases the offender on probation is fitted with an electronic tag which signals his or her whereabouts to officials.
In the United States, there is Federal Probation, State Probation (run by either the state or by county governments), and Probation in the US Territories. Each of these systems has some similarities, but the scope, mission, and fundamental operations vary widely. Some states combine probation with parole in one agency, some combine adult and juvenile probation together, and some have separate systems for each.   
Arming and Increased Authority
Most Probations Officers/Agents are armed, 39 State, Territories and Federal Probation either mandate or have optional arming of officers, and this trend is increasing as the threat to the public and the officers evolves and increases, as does the and the public demand of safety and accountability . 
Nevada, Oklahoma, and South Carolina are a few of the states in the forefront of Probations as each of these states probations agencies are now full police officers. They have statewide arrest powers, tactical special operations units, and deploy to emergencies and disasters to provide policing. Nevada Probation & Parole (a division of the Nevada state police dept. of public safety) responded to the Hurricane Katrina disaster providing much needed police to the devastated area. 
Types of Supervision
Intensive Probation/Home Detention/GPS Monitoring These are the highest levels of probation supervision, which closely monitors the offender release into the community. Violent criminals, gang members, habitual offenders, and sex offenders are typically supervised at this level. The use of 4th Amendment wavier searches (offenders give up their rights under the 4th Amendment to require search warrants, as a condition of probation), frequent unannounced home visits, surveillance, and the use of electronic monitoring or satellite tracking are key elements of this type of probation.
High Supervision Monthly Home visits as well monthly office visits and random drug test are used under this level of supervision.
Standard Supervision Similar to High Supervision, except that contacts in the office and field may be quarterly instead of monthly.
Unsupervised probation does not involve direct supervision under a specificly appointed probation officer. Terms of probation are expected to be completed within a specific duration of time. For example, if given 1 year of unsupervised probation, a probationer might be required to have his/her terms (i.e. community service, court costs, etc) completed within the first 6 months. For the remaining 6 months, he/she must maintain good and lawful behavior, may not enter bars/taverns/liquor stores, submit their right to having a firearm, and give up their 4th Amendment rights to search and seizure. Probationers may be asked to meet with their officers toward the end of the term of unsupervised probation; however, if they complete their terms early, may not require meeting with their officer at all. If terms are not completed, their officer may file a petition to revoke probation.
Usually the offender is supervised by a probation officer, to monitor their performance during the probation period. The probation officer helps the offender to adapt to living in the community; to guide and help them to behave in a lawful and responsible way. Conversely, the probation officer also monitors the offender to ensure a lack of future criminal behavior. The probation officer may have to revoke the offender's probation or have to arrest the offender.
History of probation: origins and evolution
The concept of probation, from the Latin word probatio - meaning testing period - has historical roots in the practice of judicial reprieve. In English Common Law the Courts could temporarily suspend the execution of a sentence to allow the defendant to appeal to the Crown for a pardon. Probation first developed in the United States when John Augustus, a Boston boot maker, persuaded a judge in the Boston Police Court in 1841 to give him custody of a convicted offender, a "drunkard," for a brief period and then helped the man to appear rehabilitated by the time of sentencing. Even before John Augustus, the practice of suspended sentence was used as early as 1830, in Boston, Massachusetts and became widespread in U.S. Courts, although there was no statutory authorization for such a practice. At first, judges, most notably Peter Oxenbridge Thatcher of Boston, used "release on recognizance" or bail and simply failed to take any further legal action. In 1878 the mayor of Boston hired a former police officer, one "Captain Savage," to become what many recognize as the first official probation officer. By the mid-19th century, however, many Federal Courts were using a judicial reprieve to suspend sentence, and this posed a legal question. In 1916, the United States Supreme Court held that a Federal Judge (Killets) was without power to suspend a sentence indefinitely, which is known as the Killets Decision. This famous court decision led to the passing of the National Probation Act of 1925, thereby, allowing courts to suspend the imposition of a sentence and place an offender on probation.
Massachusetts developed the first state wide probation system in 1880, and by 1920, 21 other states had followed suit. With the passage of the National Probation Act on March 5, 1925, signed by President Calvin Coolidge, the U.S./Federal Probation Service was established to serve the U.S. Courts. On the state level, pursuant to the Crime Control and Consent Act passed by Congress in 1936, a group of states entered into agreement by which they would supervise probationers and parolees for each other. Known as the Interstate Compact For the Supervision of Parolees and Probationers, the agreement was originally signed by 25 states in 1937. In 1951, all the states in the United States of America had a working probation system and ratified the Interstate Compact Agreement. In 1959, the newly adopted states, Alaska and Hawaii, in addition the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands and the territories of Guam and American Samoa]] ratified the act as well.
Probation began as a humanitarian effort to allow first-time and minor offenders a second chance. Early probationers were expected not only to obey the law but also to behave in a morally acceptable fashion. Officers sought to provide moral leadership to help shape probationers' attitudes and behavior with respect to family, religion, employment, and free time. They aimed to ensure that this was enforced as well, and early probationers were given the opportunity to prove themselves and possibly even reduce their sentence.
During the 1920s through the 1950s, the major developments in the field of psychology led probation officers to shift their emphasis from moral leadership to therapeutic counseling. This shift brought three important changes. First, the officer no longer primarily acted as a community supervisor charged with enforcing a particular morality. Second, the officer became more of a clinical social worker whose goal was to help the offender solve psychological and social problems. Third, the offender was expected to become actively involved in the treatment. The pursuit of rehabilitation as the primary goal of probation gave the officer extensive discretion in defining and treating the offender's problems. Officers used their judgment to evaluate each offender and develop a treatment approach to the personal problems that presumably had led to crime. Many states offered to dismiss or expunge the conviction if the probationer fulfilled the terms of the probation.
During the 1960s, major social changes swept across the United States. These changes also affected the field of community corrections. Rather than counseling offenders, probation officers provided them with concrete social services such as assistance with employment, housing, finances, and education. This emphasis on reintegrating offenders and remedying the social problems they faced was consistent with federal efforts to wage a "War on Poverty." Instead of being a counselor or therapist, the probation officer served as an advocate, dealing with private and public institutions on the offender's behalf.
In the late 1970s the orientation of probation changed again as the goals of rehabilitation and reintegration gave way to "risk management." This approach, still dominant today, seeks to minimize the probability that an offender will commit a new offense. Risk management reflects two basic goals. First, in accord with the deserved-punishment ideal, the punishment should fit the offense, and correctional intervention should neither raise nor lower the level of punishment. Second, according to the community protection criterion, the amount and type of supervision are determined according to the risk that the probationer will return to a life out of compliance with the law.
Prisoners may be released on parole before the end of their sentence, and are normally on probation until the end of the sentence.
A probation officer may at his discretion issue a probationer a warning, or order him to appear before a court for a probation violation hearing. At the hearing, the probation officer will typically request additional punishment, usually involving incarceration. A prisoner released on parole may have parole revoked, and be recalled to prison.There is no "hard and fast" rule for what type of violation will result in a hearing. One violation that is almost always considered serious is failure to appear for scheduled meetings with the probation officer. Being found in possession of illegal drugs, or being arrested for another crime, is likely to result in a hearing. How seriously the violation is regarded may depend upon the facts of the original offense – for example, if a person has been convicted of a gang-related offense, "association with known criminals" may be viewed as a more serious violation than if the person were on probation for driving a car with a suspended license.
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