March 30, 2014

The Law and You: Probation requires effort

Probation is an opportunity, not a trap.

It can be a guided path to a much better life, to a stable residence, stopping drug use, reuniting with supportive people in your life, going to school or work.

For some, these are huge accomplishments, though they do not come easily. Sadly, a lot of people won’t even try.

It is disappointing to hear some defendants say they would rather do jail time than have the Probation Department “looking over my shoulder.”

There is no point in sentencing someone to probation who has that attitude, as they will not do the work necessary to help themselves.

This may be because they want to keep using drugs and hang out with their friends; there are plenty of those. There are also people who are sure that they cannot succeed, who are so lacking in self confidence, who have never finished anything before, that they are certain they will fail and just want to get it over with.


The judge can require conditions of probation that make the defendant go to needed treatment programs, such as for drugs, domestic violence, mental health; or go to school or work.

The threat of jail for failing to do so keeps some attending when they otherwise would not.

Conditions can also prohibit certain behaviors — the obvious one is breaking the law. Other examples include the court forbidding the person from associating with people he or she got in trouble with or getting a driver’s license. It may also require the defendant to follow a curfew or get Probation Department approval before changing a residence.

People who grew up with no structure in their homes often have very little ability to organize themselves or to follow through on anything. They can’t seem to plan their time, keep appointments or even schedule them in the first place.

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