Essay on Probation System in U.S.A !
It is generally said that great ideas often have modest beginning. This is true with the origin of probation as well. In America John Augustus, a shoe-maker of Boston in 1841 volunteered to stand bail for a person charged with drunkenness in a local court. The defendant showed signs of reform.
The Judge ordered a nominal fine and released the offender. Fascinated by this incident, John Augustus started standing bail for more and more offenders and took upon himself the duty of helping and supervising them during the period of bail. Subsequently, he helped delinquent women and children also in their rehabilitation. Thus, he saved over two thousand persons from the rigours of Prisonisation. It is from here that the system of probation began.
John Augustus, was, however, cautious in selecting offenders to be accepted under his charge. He picked up only those delinquents and accepted them as apprentices who were not totally depraved but showed signs of reformation. He arranged to send them to school and provided them with some honest employment and lodging. He maintained an up-to-date record of all the cases he had handled.
This provided a blue-print for modem probation system. Later, Father Cook of Boston also took keen interest in the rehabilitation of young offenders. He drew attention of the courts to the fact that these offenders were mostly the victims of their circumstances and were corrigible if placed under proper supervision and guidance. He associated himself with the criminal courts of Boston to advise the Judges in matters of juvenile trials.
Probation law was formally enacted in Massachusetts State for the first time in 1878 and probation officers were appointed for the city of Boston. The probation programme was subsequently extended to other cities in the State of America. In course of time, juvenile courts were established and the system of probation was extended to these courts also. By the middle of the twentieth century probation became so popular that it began to be extensively used in cases of adults, juveniles and women in most parts of the United States.
Expressing his views about the expansion of probation system, Donald Taft observed that other States were rather slow to follow the Massachussett’s example. Illinois adopted the system of probation in 1899. Thereafter, other States followed the suit and by the year 1956, all States accepted probation for rehabilitation of their delinquents. Under the American probation law, the benefit of release on probation extends to following offences:—
(i) Crimes of violence;
(ii) Crimes involving use of deadly weapons;
(iii) Sexual offences;
(iv) Crimes against the Government or treason;
(v) Offences for which specific mandatory punishment is provided; and
In some of the American States probation is being extensively used for all offenders excepting the recidivists who are excluded from being admitted .to the benefit of probation law. The jurisdiction of Federal Courts as regards admitting the offenders to the benefit of probation is, however, narrowed down by several statutes passed during the preceding decades.