Probation and Aftercare

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Date Submitted: 09/10/2011 07:09 AM

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 In English courts, reprieve empowered judges to temporarily suspend either the imposition or execution of a sentence in order to permit a defendant to appeal for a pardon. Although suspension was intended to be temporary, further prosecution of was sometimes abandoned (Allen et al|). Judges in the United States exercised a similar power, enabling them to suspend the sentence of a convicted defendant if justice had in any way been miscarried. The use of judicial power to suspend a sentence extended to cases in which there existed no miscarriage of justice. Sentences were suspended seemingly to give defendants another chance. Documentation of this practice in Boston dates back to 1830. Such suspensions were challenged near the turn of the twentieth century in a New York state court (1894) and later in the Supreme Court (1916). Both courts held that absent a legislative directive judges did nit possess the authority to suspend sentences.

During roughly the same time period, a shoe maker –philanthropist in Boston, named John Augustus, began the practice of bailing offenders out of court and assuming responsibility for them in the community.


 Bailing hundreds offenders between the years 1841 and 1859, John Augustus is more often credited as being the founder of probation. Augustus bailed the offenders out after conviction. As a result of this favor and with acts of friendliness such as helping the offender obtain employment and aiding the offender’s family in other ways, the offender’s family in other ways, the offender was indebted to Augustus and was willing to abide by agreements.

After a period of supervision in the community, the bailed offenders returned to court armed with Augustus’s sentencing recommendations. Due to his efforts John Augustus’s charges were typically spared incarceration.

John Augustus’s probation bears much resemblance to probation as it is practiced today. Augustus took great...