Probation is one of the most common approaches used in dealing with criminals. It involves a situation where a defendant who is found guilty of a crime is released by the court without imprisonment subject to conditions imposed by the court (Canton, 2013). Studies have established that this approach has several strengths and weaknesses. One of the biggest strengths of probation is the fact that it enhances the flexibility of the legal system in terms of dealing with the high number of criminals (Canton, 2013).
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With the challenge of overcrowding in prisons, probation often offers a reliable alternative to incarceration. Another major strength of probation is the fact that it provides offenders with second chances, of redeeming their reputation within the community (Canton, 2013). However, probation also has weaknesses that compromise its effectiveness. The first weakness is the fact that a high number of people ensnared in the criminal justice system have a detrimental effect on society (Canton, 2013).
The second weakness of probation is the fact that it allows criminals to live freely, yet in reality, they should be in jail. Critics of probation argue that such leeway for criminals can be dangerous because the number of criminals who genuinely choose to change their ways is often very low. The philosophy behind probation is creating a trial period during which the character of a criminal is tested to ascertain whether they are suitable to interact with the public or be in jail (Canton, 2013). The reasoning behind this philosophy was guided by the need to prevent overcrowding in prisons by allowing petty offenders a chance to prove that they can reform and be of no harm to the public.
Canton, R. (2013). Probation: Working with Offenders. New York, NY: Taylor & Francis.