In the United States, correctional control is used to refer to any number of types of supervision or incarceration, including prisons, jails, civil commitment, parole, and probation.
The number of adults who fall under this umbrella might surprise you – about one in thirty-seven. But far fewer are actually physically being detained in brick-and-mortar facilities. Parole and probation are two tools that the criminal justice system utilizes as means to supervise and limit activities for offenders who no longer need to be incarcerated but should be held accountable to certain terms and expectations as a term of their release from prison and return to civilian life.
Parole Versus Probation – What's the Difference?
Parole and probation are commonly confused terms, and that's understandable. Until you or someone you know faces one of these consequences, you may not fully understand the nuances of each. Simply put, when an offender is paroled, it means they are released early from prison or jail to re-enter their community. Probation, on the other hand, typically is ordered in place of a jail or prison sentence.
Both are generally seen as positive outcomes compared with the alternatives, but they do come with expectations that must be met. Failing to do so can and often will result in negative consequences, including the possibility of being sent to a correctional facility. This happens to nearly 350,000 offenders under community supervision every year in the United States. Hopefully, it won't happen to you.
Adult Probation Explained
If you are placed on adult probation in Union County or any county in New Jersey, this means you are under community supervision of the courts. In Union County, the Probation Division Manager is located in the Albender Building in the county seat, Elizabeth, New Jersey. The Probation Division of the Union County Court itself is responsible for supervising and monitoring you and intervening if necessary. This could include general community supervision, an intensive supervision program, or active probation supervision in recovery court. You may feel a sense of relief that you are being offered this option as an alternative to incarceration, and rightly so. This is a chance for you to make progress toward life improvements that could have far-reaching outcomes in your future if you take advantage of supports and services intended to help you do just that. Whether it's addiction counseling, mental health treatment, or alcohol and other drug abuse treatment, accessing such services is a wise course of action.
Conditions of Probation
In addition to taking advantage of services that may help you improve yourself, your life, and the lives of your loved ones, it's extremely important to pay heed to whatever rules or conditions are placed on you when you are on probation. This often includes paying a monthly probation fee (usually $25) on top of other court-imposed fines or restitution related to your offense. You are also expected to meet regularly with your probation officer and to submit to home visits, as requested or required. They are there to help you succeed, so cooperating with them is prudent.
Probation Can Offer Opportunities to Better Your Life
It's not uncommon to be required to undergo a psychological assessment or drug testing. Employment, as well as efforts to attain educational milestones, are also often provisions of probation. This could involve taking adult education classes at one or more of Union College's community campuses. Technical or vocational training, perhaps at Union County Vocational-Technical Schools (UCVTS) in Scotch Plains, New Jersey, can be a very useful endeavor for someone on probation. Community service, even if it is mandated, can be a rewarding experience and may turn into something you become passionate about in the future. Your probation officer may also try to connect you with job placement services. Being involved in these activities in a sustainable manner demonstrates to your probation officer and the court that you take your probation and your future seriously and that you are committed to bettering your life and your outcomes.
When an Offender Violates Probation
Let's hope you are not in this situation, but if you are, not all is lost. You may have a justifiable reason for violating parole, and if this is the case, it's important that this is clearly illustrated to your probation officer in Union County as well as the court. You may need to appear in court to speak for your actions and make your case. The Union County Courthouse is in Elizabeth, New Jersey. This could mean you receive a summons, or it could mean you are arrested, even without a warrant. If it looks as though you may have violated the terms of your probation, this is seen as probable cause. The most obvious violation is committing another offense, but there is a range of possible violations, such as failing a drug or alcohol screening and, therefore, a range of possible ramifications. (Failure to pay a fee or fine, unless you missed the payment on purpose, should not result in a violation, but it's important to keep up with these payments as much as you are able unless you qualify for a waiver based on income.)
If you are arrested for a violation of probation (VOP), know that you might be held in custody without the possibility of bail until your court date arrives. When it does, if you fail to prove that you did not violate the terms of your probation, you could have your probation or suspended sentence revoked or amended, and you might be resentenced for your original offense.
This would take place in a court hearing, ideally with legal representation defending your case. As a defendant, you are strongly cautioned against attempting to represent yourself in court, but you are an important partner and collaborator in illustrating your defense, including producing evidence supporting your position.
Defending Yourself – Don't Go It Alone
Adhering to New Jersey's many detailed court policies, procedures, and guidelines can become complex and burdensome for someone actively trying to maintain probation, including efforts toward becoming involved in community service, job training, or counseling. Your time and efforts are best spent illustrating your commitment to improving your life and making sound choices. Researching esoteric guidelines, such as the rules of submitting evidence, may not be the wisest use of your time. Having a professional who is keenly familiar with how the court system works in Union County and throughout New Jersey can help your case immensely. A legal representative will know the best course of action to take in your case and can save you time and money, looking into filing fee waivers based on income, submitting court documents for you, finding and completing the specific forms you need to submit by various deadlines, and more.
How Long Are Probation Records Kept?
If you are or were on probation, you may be wondering how long these records will be available to the public. In New Jersey, courts at the county level keep adult probation records for ten years, and at the municipal level, they are maintained for five years.
Lawyer for Probation Violations in Union County, New Jersey
If you are being accused of violating your probation, don't delay seeking legal representation. The Lento Law Firm has an intimate understanding of the ins and outs of the New Jersey probation system and courts. Put their experience and knowledge to work for you.
The Lento Criminal Defense Team defends clients throughout Union County, from Berkeley Heights to Elizabeth and from Rahway to Summit, and all Union County, New Jersey, municipalities in between. We recommend you contact the office today at (888) 535-3686 for a case consultation.