The Ultimate Guide to Supporting Someone On Probation

The Ultimate Guide to Supporting Someone On Probation

Getting arrested can be a major wake-up call. There are currently two million people in American jails. If anything, mass incarceration only increases the likelihood of crime. 

Has someone you love finally had their day in court after a long time playing outside the boundaries of the law? Have they got caught up in criminal activity through a rash, stupid decision?

If they get arrested, they might be lucky to avoid jail time and get put on probation. This could serve as the perfect opportunity to turn their life around.

Dealing with a family member or someone you love who has fallen afoul of the law can be overwhelming. It can come out of the blue, leaving you to make sense of the complex legal system while juggling your own emotions.

You might be wondering what the probation rules are and what you can do to support your loved one at this stressful time.

Keep reading to learn all about probation and how you can help someone successfully pass their probation and not land up in jail.

What Does Being On Probation Mean?

In a country with so many prisoners costing tens of millions of dollars a year, jail time is not always seen as the best solution.

For first-time or low-risk offenders, going to jail might further set them along a path of crime. Studies have shown that incarceration breaks social and family bonds that could be vital to keeping someone on the right track.

By reducing a family's income or stoking hatred towards the legal system, jailing someone can sometimes do more harm than good.

When a judge determines that an accused person is not a threat to society, they might seek an alternative form of punishment. This is when the court may impose probation rather than a jail sentence.

Probation allows a person to live freely in their community after their offense. However, they have to live by a specific set of rules for a period of time the judge will order. During this period, the accused person will have to check in regularly with a probation officer.

The probation officer is a legal official who will assess how the person on probation is doing. They will determine if they are meeting their goals, assess how to support them, and monitor their behavior.

If the person under probation does not follow the rules, they might have their probation revoked. In this case, they will have to complete a jail sentence.

Probation differs from parole, which is a similar alternative to jail time, however for people who have already spent time in prison. The ex-prisoner will then be monitored for a set period of time upon re-entering society.

What Rules Are There on Probation?

The particular set of rules an offender will have to follow will be set by the court and may vary according to the crime involved.

Here are some examples:

  • Get and keep a job
  • Avoid any contact with criminals
  • Do not engage in criminal behavior
  • Attend drug or alcohol rehabilitation
  • Live in a specific area or halfway house
  • Stick to a curfew
  • Carry out community services
  • Take regular drug or alcohol tests
  • Give DNA samples
  • Undergo therapy or psychiatric treatment
  • Report to a probation officer

If the crime involved the use of a firearm, the probation might include a ban on possessing a gun or other dangerous weapons. In the case of a sex offender, there might be more targeted requirements.

Suppose the defendant has been found guilty of domestic violence. In this case, they will probably be ordered to take a particular rehabilitation program.

How Can You Help?

The first step to assisting your loved one through their probation is to sit down and talk with them about the conditions set by the judge. This will allow you to support them every step of the way and assess where they might need extra help.

Don't hesitate to get to know the parole officer, who could be a valuable resource to guide you through the period.

One of the most important things your friend or family member will need is encouragement and support. You can explain to them that this is merely a hurdle on their path and that with the right attitude and behavior, they can succeed.

Ask the right questions. If the person on probation is not allowed to be around alcohol, does this mean they can go to a restaurant? Be sure to carefully understand what could be considered a violation of their probation.

Help them by organizing social activities that do not revolve around drugs or alcohol. Be sure not to invite people who have been a bad influence in the past. Encourage them to take up new hobbies and meet new people.

You can help the defendant set up a calendar marking what appointments they must keep. If necessary, offer to drive them to meetings or offer any other transport assistance you can.

In some cases, a family member or friend might benefit from the offer of a place to stay if this conforms with the rules of their probation. If you can assist, a comfortable and supportive home environment could go a long way to smoothing the probation period.

Encourage the defendant to attend support groups on top of the classes and programs their probation officer may have recommended. Maintaining healthy habits is vital to success.

If you see that your loved one is struggling to meet certain requirements, speak to their probation officer about how you can further support them. 

Keeping on the Straight and Narrow

Getting arrested can be a significant blow in life. You may picture your loved one's future crumbling before your eyes.

Being on probation may be challenging, but with your help and support, it may be a major turning point in someone's life. It could be the perfect opportunity to deal with any mental health or addiction issues driving reckless behavior.

Click here for any and all questions you may have about the criminal justice system.