Need a mnemonic for "probation" vs "parole"
October 24, 2013 12:25 PM   Subscribe

What's a mnemonic I can use to remember the difference between probation and parole?

I always get confused between the meanings of the words "probation" and "parole", especially in the context of correctional systems. I'm looking for a memory/learning trick to help remind myself which means which.

As reference (from

Probation refers to adult offenders whom courts place on supervision in the community through a probation agency, generally in lieu of incarceration.

Parole refers to criminal offenders who are conditionally released from prison to serve the remaining portion of their sentence in the community.
posted by chefscotticus to Writing & Language (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You get probation before you go to prison, and then you roll out of prison on parole.
posted by Etrigan at 12:28 PM on October 24, 2013 [5 favorites]

Probation instead of incarceration
posted by mikepop at 12:28 PM on October 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

Once in the hole, now out on parole
posted by mikepop at 12:29 PM on October 24, 2013 [6 favorites]

You can be on probation at school (supervised, given a warning, tracked), but there's no such thing as being on parole at school.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:36 PM on October 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

Probation= "prebation" because it happens before going to jail
posted by windykites at 12:37 PM on October 24, 2013

Probation means you are probably not going to jail.
posted by Rock Steady at 12:38 PM on October 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

You get probation before you go to prison

You can get probation after prison as part of a sentence commutation.

I couldn't complete the rhyme, but I'll toss this out anyway: "On probation, you can vacation. On gotta stay at the halfway house."
posted by ignignokt at 12:39 PM on October 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

ParoLe lets you Leave prison.
posted by marshmallow peep at 12:45 PM on October 24, 2013

Best answer: Not a mnemonic but I'd go back to the etymology of the terms because it's important to know the roots of the terms and I find etymology helps me remember what things mean if I relate words to other similar ones.

If you know French, you'll know parole means words/lyrics and donner sa parole means to give one's word. English words like parlance and parley come via the same root and are easily remembered. Parole requires you convince a parole board using speech to let you out on parole (your word).

Probation, on the other hand, has its routes in probing, experimentation, or proving. Probation is more restrictive because the system is testing or probing the offender with strict requirements to see if he/she will behave in wider society.

So, parole is to give one's word and be trusted upon it, but probation is an attempt at probing/experimenting that the offender will behave.
posted by wackybrit at 12:49 PM on October 24, 2013 [18 favorites]

"Probated? Sentence evaded! Parolee? Rap sheet for thee!"
"Probate = a better fate / Parole = outta the hole"
posted by julthumbscrew at 12:50 PM on October 24, 2013

I went to jail because I stole, but now I'm out on parole.

Because I had sufficient provocation, I only had to get probation.

They unlocked my cell with the master key, and now I am a parolee. Alt: I used to be a detainee, but now I get to be a parolee.

Really though, I'd just try to remember the phrase "out on parole," which implies that you had to be "in" a facility first to be on parole.
posted by zachlipton at 12:56 PM on October 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

Wackybrit's answer is great. The one thing I would caution with some of these devices, is that there are many people with shorter sentences, that are incarcerated (Typically in jail not prison) prior to being placed on probation. This may depend on what state you are in, but in California, almost everyone being released for an initial offense from jail will be on probation.

If you are familiar and comfortable with the different between jail and prison, you may want to link parole to prison.
Probation can be an informal period where if no offense is committed, the individual will not be incarcerated. While post jail, probation refers to the sentence being completed in the community with extra supervision.

I also understand probation to be far stricter than parole.
posted by thankyouforyourconsideration at 1:21 PM on October 24, 2013

In Oregon, probation is no vacation (because of the threat of revocation and a subsequent jail or prison sentence), but once you're on parole, it doesn't toll (meaning it doesn't restart or stop, in the vast majority of cases.)
posted by Happydaz at 2:41 PM on October 24, 2013

Probation/makes them/stay safe from/incarceration
Parole gets them out/but they gotta watch their mouth/else they go back to the station, hatin'.
posted by lifethatihavenotlivedyet at 8:26 PM on October 25, 2013

When I hear 'parole' I picture old-fashioned naval officers with big side whiskers and fancy hats walking crossly around enemy towns because they've been captured and given their parole to stay put.
posted by danteGideon at 2:26 AM on October 26, 2013

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