By Jedidiah McKeehan

Two common legal terms that are often confused are probation and parole. While these terms are used frequently, there are some similarities and some differences.

Probation generally happens before going to jail.  Probation is what a defendant will receive when a sentence has been suspended.  A suspended sentence means that they will serve probation instead of going to jail.  If they do not meet the terms required of their probation and violate their probation, then they can be required to go to jail for the remainder of their sentence.  During probation, individuals have monthly meetings with a probation officer and these meetings usually cost around $40.00 to $50.00 per meeting.  Not only that, they must pass drug tests.  Along that vein, probation offers various classes for rehabilitation, and they are very good at helping individuals get in to drug rehab treatment programs.

Parole is a different type of supervision that almost always occurs after someone has been in jail for some period of time. When someone gets sentenced to jail for 10 years, very rarely do they actually sit in jail for 10 years.  In Tennessee, most criminals become eligible for parole (early release from jail) after they have served 30% of their sentence.  So, if someone has a 10 year sentence and they get out of jail after they serve three years of that sentence, they will remain on parole for the next seven years.  During that parole period, they will have to comply with the requirements of the parole officer, get a job, attend meetings, and pass drug tests.  Again, if they violate their parole, they could end up back in jail for the remainder of their sentence.  One thing that the parole board does, that probation does not, is that they are more involved in getting people rehabilitated and helping them re-enter society after being in jail.


Jedidiah McKeehan is an attorney practicing in Knox County and surrounding counties.  He works in many areas, including criminal, personal injury, landlord-tenant, probate, and estate planning. Visit for more information about this legal issue and other legal issues.