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Probation or Jail

Updated on November 29, 2014

Your Living Quarters While Incarcerated

Typical Jail Cell
Typical Jail Cell
Typical Institution Style Common Area
Typical Institution Style Common Area
Dorm Style Living Quarters
Dorm Style Living Quarters

You're faced With A Decision

A crime was committed...Many crimes were committed...You made a bad choice...You were with someone who made a bad choice...Drugs, theft, addiction and so on...Whatever the cause; whatever the reason; whatever the actual details of what brought you here today to read this article, you or someone you know is faced with a decision. A decision that at first glance may seem like a "no-brainer." I mean honestly if one has the choice to be out on the streets with some court ordered responsibilities versus being locked-up, why on Earth would they choose to be incarcerated as opposed to being out on the streets. Good question. Truth is though, for many, this question is a mentally and emotionally draining dilemma whether you want to believe it or not. In this hub I not only hope to elaborate on this topic enough to bring you the reason's that this issue is a very "Real" one for some; I also hope to help those faced with this decision to prioritize their dilemma in order to make sure that when they do decide which way they want to go, that they make the right choice for themselves. Let me emphasize the fact that any person reading this should not simply look at this article, but others as well in order to gain more opinions and advice before making a life changing decision. Let me also emphasize that only "You" can make this decision and no one can make it for you. This means that you, and only you, are responsible for the results of the decision you make. Other people will endure the affects of your decision right along with you, but only you will be responsible for either:

A) Following all the rules and regulations associated with whatever Supervising Agency you find yourself in the jurisdiction of; or

B) Living with the emotional, physical, spiritual and mental stress of living life inside the walls of whatever institution you find yourself in assuming you make the choice to execute your sentence.

So, with these things in mind as we move forward, I encourage you to think about it very hard. Evaluate your choices thoroughly. Understand who you are as completely as you can. Talk with those close to you and listen to what they are telling you in order to understand what type of support you have available. And finally, be honest. Be honest about the situation. Be honest with who you talk to. And most of all be honest with yourself.

(Quick Note: By being honest I do not mean discussing the details of the case with anybody other than your lawyer with whom you have lawyer-client privileges with. You know the details of your case and whether you are guilty or not. I am referring to your own emotional, mental and spiritual strength and your ability to withstand the powerful restraints and stresses of living life incarcerated versus having the ability to follow all the rules and regulations associated with whatever supervising agency you find in charge of your supervision. )

Your Opinion Is Wanted

Which would you be more likely to choose?

See results

So You Have A Decision To Make

So the time is coming or has come and you have a decision to make. And not an easy one by any means for some people. They waffle back and forth over the prospect of both choices, wondering if for example, is it better to do 15-months in prison or 60-months on probation? Yeah, 15-months is a heck of a lot quicker to get done with, but 60-months is the choice that keeps you out of jail. The answer is different for each and every person. There really is no right or wrong answer, however, the impact of either choice will change the course of your life forever. What are the thoughts though that are running through the mind of a man/woman who personally faces this choice. Well, as someone who has faced it multiple times, I will not claim by any means to be the resident expert, but having these personal experiences in my life I feel I am as qualified as any to talk about them with you.

To begin, let's take a look at some of the facts. The first one is more rhetorical in nature, but however it is a fact. Most people would prefer to be free over being incarcerated in any manner. This goes without question. What relevance does this hold in this article would be a great question at this point. Well, I told you I would discuss the thoughts that run through the minds of people faced with choosing their sentences, and this reality is the catalyst to many of them. It creates a one track mind or tunnel-vision that while incarcerated causes many people to do, say or agree with whatever they are told to do in order to get out. Sounds like an ideal situation at first glance, but believe me this is a devastating factor in the success of actually completing probation as described in ones prospective sentence without violating it and having to do your time ultimately anyway. Many times on what is called the "Installment-Plan." The installment-plan is one in which the offender ends up doing their full sentence in the form of multiple violations, which many times ends up in the full execution of the jail-time which was "stayed" at the time of sentencing. One should be having types of thoughts such as:

  • What types of thoughts have I been having that got me to where I am today and how can I change those thoughts?
  • Who Can I turn to in times of trouble or need that will positively support me in making the correct choices that will help me better my life?
  • Which relationships do I have that are unhealthy for my success and what do I need to do to eliminate these relationships from my life?
  • What types of assistance or treatments would truly be beneficial to me to help me prevent the same situation from happening in the future?

Instead this phenomena of tunnel-vision will actually create much more basic thoughts that play no role in empowering an individual to be successful such as:

  • I miss my girlfriend.
  • I hate being locked-up.
  • The "system" is a joke.
  • When I get out of here I'm going to ____________.

And those are just a few of the endless number of basic thoughts people are having while they are sitting in places such as jail. This type of basic thinking is detrimental to people who make the choice to take a plea that involves extended periods of supervision versus taking the incarceration in the first place. The desire to be free without properly analyzing the situation one seriously faces and developing a game-plan for the success of it creates statistics like these which were posted by the Bureau of Justice in their recent 2010 study of recidivism:

  • About two-thirds (67.8%) of released prisoners were arrested for a new crime within 3 years, and three-quarters (76.6%) were arrested within 5 years.
  • Within 5 years of release, 82.1% of property offenders were arrested for a new crime, compared to 76.9% of drug offenders, 73.6% of public order offenders, and 71.3% of violent offenders.
  • More than a third (36.8%) of all prisoners who were arrested within 5 years of release were arrested within the first 6 months after release, with more than half (56.7%) arrested by the end of the first year.
  • Two in five (42.3%) released prisoners were either not arrested or arrested once in the 5 years after their release.
  • A sixth (16.1%) of released prisoners were responsible for almost half (48.4%) of the nearly 1.2 million arrests that occurred in the 5-year follow-up period.
  • An estimated 10.9% of released prisoners were arrested in a state other than the one that released them during the 5-year follow-up period
  • Within 5 years of release, 84.1% of inmates who were age 24 or younger at release were arrested, compared to 78.6% of inmates ages 25 to 39 and 69.2% of those age 40 or older.

With statistics like that, one would wonder why people wouldn't just get it over with instead of going through the process over and over again. The stats are mind-boggling to say the least. Why do so many people continuously fall in to this cycle of recidivism over and over again? I already said it. I've watched it happen in real life more often than not...The inner drive to be free is so powerful, it does not allow people to concentrate on the things they really need to be doing in order to develop a successful plan for success. Men and women will sit and stare at calendars, circle the galleys and other similar redundant types of activities as opposed to answering the questions that truly matter. Why don't they answer them..? Another easy one...They are not having them a vast majority of the time!

Financial problems play a role in probation/supervised release.
Financial problems play a role in probation/supervised release.

Financial Issues

Another thing to consider, as many folks do, is there can be an abundant amount of fees, fines and hidden costs associated with the supervision/probation that you end up assuming you decide to go that route. I am by no means trying to guide you down any path here I am simply trying to bring up the things that people consider when facing this choice. So, lets take a look at what types of costs are associated with this. For starters, many jurisdictions carry a mandatory supervision fee. From the research that I have done this can cost someone usually between $40-$60/month. A nominal fee if you would like my honest opinion to help obtain freedom from incarceration. However, to some it is viewed as an expense they simply cannot make when combined with other costs they incur along with it. Costs such as $15-40 for every urine analysis offenders are obligated to pay every time they are requested to do so. In my opinion this is a high expectation by the state or county when one considers that it only costs them roughly $4.00 to administer one. This is a point where people will vary in what they are willing to pay or are capable of affording when factoring in what choice to actually make. In addition to these mentioned costs are the court fees, lawyer surcharges and fines. Other costs to take in to consideration here as well are the ones that aren't usually factored in by people. Here is short list of them, but certainly not all of them:

  • Cost of transportation to and from probation offices and required meetings.
  • Daycare for children during probation meetings/hearings and community service hours.
  • Parking
  • Cost of mandated classes such as Anger Management an Cognitive Skills.
  • Faxing requested documents to required agencies.

So my point here is, that there are some costs associated with freedom that one needs to consider when debating what is the best route for them when they find themselves in this situation. To some it may be an easy choice, but to what seems to be a growing number of people, a not so easy predicament.

Drug addiction creates problems for offenders on probation/supervised release.
Drug addiction creates problems for offenders on probation/supervised release.

Addiction & Drug Abuse

One would be foolish to not consider there own personal battle with addiction when considering what the best move for them would be. What is my angle, you ask..? Well, let me elaborate. For many of us caught up in these situations we face the dilemma that we have a drug addiction or problem of some sort that if we have not prepared to deal with it or don't have the means to deal with it on our own, we should probably figure out a way to address it before we decide that freedom is the perfect choice for us when compared against incarceration. I mean honestly, how many times do we see people take lengthy extended terms of probation over being incarcerated only to consistently and routinely violate their conditions of release/supervision. Constantly asking people and researching ways of passing a urine analysis; then using all the way up to the point of walking in the doors of their probation office to take the darn thing. Not having a plan in place or even worse, assuming that because you haven't used in a few days or weeks that the demon of addiction has released you from its grip is a dangerous road to travel if your hope is to stay free. Keep in mind the main reason you are not using is because the availability of your drug in most of these cases is null assuming you are locked up when decision time comes. If you happen to be out on the streets, I would strongly advise arranging, in whatever fashion you can, a plan to get in to a treatment program before deciding that you want probation over jail. If you don't, statistics show you will more than likely find yourself incarcerated without the choice of freedom even available to you. Many times with more issue than you faced in the first place. Find out where support meetings are located and attend them. Yes there will be the rare case of a person who can stop cold-turkey, but assuming that person is you is like playing Russian Roulette with your freedom, only the odds are stacked against you. Choosing probation over incarceration for someone with a drug problem that they do not plan on addressing is a sure fire way to do your time on that Installment-Plan I mentioned earlier, or even worse, not even get a second chance at it. So please consider this seriously and if you know your not ready to stop using; do yourself a favor and just serve the time. It'll save you a lot of wasted time and may even give you the opportunity to clean up a bit more and realize that you do have a problem worth addressing for your own benefit.

Great article on this very topic.
Great article on this very topic. | Source

Some Reasons Why People Choose Jail

  • They cannot afford the probation fee's, treatment costs; urine analysis'; etc.
  • Refuse to do; or honestly admit they will not live up to the terms and conditions of probation.
  • Have nowhere to go besides jail.
  • They feel they are safer in jail than out on the streets.
  • Probation sentences are far lengthier than actual jail sentence.

What if this was all you had...Jail could be an opportunity at this point.
What if this was all you had...Jail could be an opportunity at this point.

It's Better Than What I Got

Another reason you will find that some people choose incarceration over supervision as oddly as it may seem to some, is that being incarcerated is actually a better proposition than some people's current living situations. If you do not have issues with your living situation this may seem a bit extreme. However, you'd be surprised how many people go without eating the necessary amounts of food a person needs on a daily basis to remain healthy; struggle to stay warm when they sleep outside in winter climates; and many other scenarios. Then there are the cases of the uninsured; the under-motivated; the overly-burdened; the depressed and so on. These people who wander about searching for their places in life with no results that show any promise...As sad as it may seem, they find solace within the walls of institutions. Three meals a day...A bed to sleep on..And an you believe it! It comes with a blanket to cover them..! Medical services and all the other things many Americans take for granted; well, now they finally have these things once they are locked-up. With nowhere to turn otherwise; or anyone to help support them when "free," these people are typically faced with choice we have been speaking about directly because of the decisions they "thought" they had to make because of their predicaments themselves. Can you imagine living a life where jail seems like a blessing? Believe it or not I can. Last year as I felt myself going in to hypothermic shock in the outdoors of Minnesota at a temperature boasting 40-below wind-chill. Mind you I was homeless at the time, I chose to let myself get arrested as opposed to dying in a field. Did my very own actions put me in the position I was in that night..? They most certainly did. However, I had gotten away from the police, but knew I was on the verge of freezing to death. I consciously made the decision to go to jail that night because at that point in my life I had no better option. I knew the police were searching for me and so I went to where I knew they would be. It is a perfect example of what I am talking about here. I'm not proud of it, but it's true. So my point is, evaluate what you have available to you when you need to make this choice. Sometimes, just doing the time gives you an opportunity to clean-up...Get healthy...It gives you some time to reflect on life and prepare for your future with resources available to you that you wouldn't have otherwise. If jail can give you time to regroup and make for a better life, its not a poor decision.

Typical visiting situation while incarcerated.
Typical visiting situation while incarcerated.

Those Around You

Now let us look at those around us. Our family, children, spouses, etcetera. If/when we decide that doing the time is a better choice than an extended sentence of supervised release, they will right along with us serve the same sentence, simply from a different place and under different circumstances. Circumstances where many people will judge them for even assuming that their incarceration places any amount of stress on them. Saying it is a fabricated lie conjured up solely for the purpose of gaining attention or sympathy. I assure you that is not the case. Your incarceration will in fact apply tons of pressure and obstacles to them in life. Many times people will ask/beg for money yet be unable to contribute a single penny towards the bills, daycare and food amongst other responsibilities. Many will expect their spouses, even if only subconsciously, to simply sit at home and stop enjoying life. They will want visits from them during visiting hours expecting them to cancel all of life's other obligations and then....Oh, let the weather cause them to be late..! I could go on and on and on about the war stories I have witnessed about this topic, but I won't. I think with just the few examples I have utilized one can begin to develop an idea of how their absence places hardships upon the very shoulders of those whom they love and hold dear. Kids will suffer from your absence...Spouses will live in loneliness and worry...Parents plagued by false hopes...Friends will struggle to maintain correspondence with you while having all the blame for the lack of communication with you placed upon their efforts or lack of...As if the decision you made that landed you where you are had nothing to do with it. These are things to take in to serious consideration before making your choice. All of your relationships in some way, shape or form will be affected. How though, will not be known until a future date.

Incarceration -vs- Freedom

In wrapping up this article, I want to say that I hope I brought you some good information, ideas, thoughts and scenarios... I hope I have encouraged people faced with this dilemma to thoroughly evaluate their lives before making a choice. It is a fact that a growing number of people are choosing to execute their sentences in lieu of serving sometimes many years on probation or supervised release. We all have our own set of circumstances to evaluate and consider before we make this choice. I have tried to touch on the benefits and consequences of either choice. In my life I have made both decisions. I am even currently in the midst of the challenges of my decision to meet all the requirements and responsibilities of choosing to do 5-years on probation versus 19-months in prison. When I evaluated my circumstances...When I looked at my options that I had available. I can honestly say without hesitation that the small task of conforming to the states rules and regulations, like over 90% of our population does in the first place, was an easy choice. I reap the rewards of my decision every night when I kiss my children goodnight and hold the woman I love close to myself as we sleep. However, that is my set of circumstances at this current point in my life. We are all different and deal with our own personal factors. So as the time winds down and you find yourself at that point where you need to go right or left....Please make sure you have looked at it all as a whole and are ready to bare the responsibilities and consequences of whichever route you decide to travel. Good luck in your journey and a bit of advice... Don't make your choice solely on not going to jail or getting out of it...Make the decision that is going help make you a better person each and every day moving forward. You'll thank yourself for it later in life.

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