The high prison population in the United States gets lots of attention in the press. Yet the probation population is twice as high as the prison population.
According to the federal government, there are about 4.5 million adults on probation in the United States. The rather distressing thing about that number is that it's the lowest probation population figure in twenty years.
At any given time, approximately one out of every forty-three Texans is on probation for something. That's significantly more folks than the nationwide average of one in every fifty-five people.
As a practical matter, there is basically no difference between these two types of court supervision. They both usually involve suspended jail sentences, payment of fines and court costs, reporting requirements, and other mandates, such as community service, self-improvement classes, or monitoring devices like ankle bracelets or ignition interlock devices.
If the football team wins on Sunday, the players often get an extra day off. The same thing is true regarding probation. If you do well, you are entitled to additional time off. But a motion for early release for probation means much more than a temporary respite or a longer lunch hour.
In most cases, probation is an excellent sentencing option. As long as your job offers some flexibility in terms of lunch hours and whatever, your boss may not ever know that you are on probation.
During the period of probation, these two sentencing alternatives are the same. Both usually mean attending meetings with a probation officer, performing community service, attending drug education or other classes, and paying fines. Both usually have the same set of generic conditions, such as supporting dependents, avoiding bad habits, and staying away from disreputable people.