Parole is defined as a temporary release of a person from prison before the completion of his or her sentence on the promise of good behavior. The grounds on which a person can be out on parole are given in the Prison act of 1894 and Prison act of 1900. All the different states in India have their own rules on grounds of parole with a few changes. Parole in India is divided into two types- Custody Parole and Regular Parole. The former type of Parole is granted by the prison to the prisoner on grounds of emergency for example; a death in the family. A prisoner released under the conditions of custody parole is released for a maximum period of six hours. The prisoner is then escorted and returned to the prison by police officers. Regular Parole is granted for a maximum of one month to prisoners who have at least served a term of one year in prison. Regular parole is also granted on various grounds of emergencies, for example; a death in the family, delivery of a child by the wife of the convict, damage to life and property of the convict, etc. Parole is not granted to convicts who are a threat to the nation, a threat to the citizens of the country, or those who have been indicted on the grounds of rape and murder.
Probation is the suspension of the sentence of the convict so that he or she can live on as a part of society and not inside the four walls of a prison. Convicts who are first-time offenders and are above the age of 18 can apply for probation. Probation is different from parole because Parole is a temporary release from the prison due to an emergency faced by the convict, whereas probation is the suspension of the sentence of the convict so that the convict can again start being a part of society. The duration of the probation period can range from one to three years and sometimes even up to a lifetime, depending upon the severity of the crime committed by the convict. Probation is not a right but a privilege that is given to criminals above the age of 18. Convicts under the age of 18 can also be granted probation under the Juvenile Justice Welfare Act 2006 or R.A. 9344. The Republic Act no.9344 or the Juvenile Justice Welfare Act provides for a system that looks after children who are at risk with the law and provides these children with child-appropriate proceedings to help them. It includes services for rehabilitation for the children, services for prevention, diversion, etc. This act provides for the child being treated as someone who needs help as they are vulnerable due to the circumstances of their upbringing. Instead of treating the child as a criminal who needs to be punished, this act provides for rehabilitation in the truest sense.
The Probation of Offenders Act 1958, deals with the proceedings of granting of probation to convicts who have applied for the same. This act was brought into force by the Criminal Justice System in India to focus on the rehabilitation of criminals instead of solely focusing on punishing them. Section 562 of the Criminal Procedure Court of India stated that any convict who was not under the age of 21 years and was punishable with imprisonment of 7 years or less or, any convict who was under the age of 21 years or any woman not punishable with life imprisonment or the death penalty, could be released on probation of good conduct. This section led to the development of the making of Probation of Offenders act. Section 19 of this act replaced section 562 of the Criminal Procedure Court, which states that section 562 of the CrPC to not be applied in certain cases, subject to the provisions of section 18, provisions of section 562 will cease to exist in states or parts in which this act is brought into force.
One of the main debates around the system of parole and probation is if it is too lenient and not serving the purpose of punishment or if it is morally right to give an individual who rubbed the law in a wrong way, a second chance. Should a person be forever punished for a crime or should he be given a chance to redeem himself and rehabilitate?
There are various advantages around the concept of probation as it allows for correction and rectification. As the famous proverb goes to err is human, every individual should be entitled to correct his or her mistakes as it is in our normal human nature to make errors. Probation is a provision that can be advantageous only to offenders who have shown expressly that they can become a part of society again by showing compliance and good behavior while being imprisoned. Probation and Parole give an offender a chance to restart his or her life as they have already paid a price for their crime. It is seen as a period of learning and growth. Both these provisions are correctional provisions, where probation is seen as the first stage of correction and parole is seen as the last stage of correction. (Singh, 2019).
In the debate of whether Parole and Probation are lenient or not, it can be said that it is seen as being lenient towards offenders as it looks like it disregards the trauma of the victim and lets the offender run free, that it lets an individual who can be a threat to society move freely, that it gives undue importance to offenders in a society where the crime rates are increasing daily. (Trayosha, n.d.)
On the other hand, the statement of parole and probation being lenient can be rebutted by stating that offenders who are released on these grounds are subject to various restrictions and limitations. They are released with invisible restraints which can clamp down on them the minute they break the rules that they need to follow to be free. The possibility of going back to prison always remains a lingering thought in the back of the mind of the offender which automatically makes him or her steer clear of any sort of crime. This can be seen as a psychological effect of the strict conditions of the offender’s release. This acts as sort of a negative reinforcement which stops the offender from engaging in any future criminal activities. The system is also not as lenient as some people think it is, as being released from prison is a tag that the offender carries everywhere he or she goes. The term offender is an adjective permanently associated with the human being. Even though parole and probation seek to help by giving the offender another chance, in reality, it is much harder to fit into society once a person has been tagged as a criminal or an offender. The offenders’ life is subject to restrictions of which he cannot ever be free. Therefore, at first, it may give the impression that it is a system of leniency and gives a free pass to criminals to roam around freely in society, but in reality, it is life subject to limitations as long as the rehabilitated offender lives.