Probation plays a dominant role in the operation of the U.S. criminal justice system. Approximately four million adults in the United States are now on probation, a court-ordered sentence that provides for a period of community supervision as a penalty for a crime. In sentencing a person to probation, a court imposes a battery of conditions intended to regulate that person’s behavior during the period of supervision. Probation officers supervise probationers for compliance with the conditions imposed.

Probation should not be confused with parole, which involves community supervision as a function of an inmate’s early release from prison. Unlike parole, probation is an independent criminal sentence imposed and administered by a judge. The judge, assisted by the probation officer, retains jurisdiction during the period of the sentence. . . .