In some cases, the judges may allow the convicted offenders to serve a short term in prison and the remaining sentence on probation in the community. This legal provision is termed as shock probation.
Apart from its effectiveness in reducing recidivism, shock probation is also useful for cutting down prison population.
The term ‘probation’ is used in various contexts, but it denotes a trial period during which the person is tested for his conduct, fitness, efficiency, etc. The legal definition of probation is as follows: “In modern criminal administration, allowing a person convicted of some minor offense (particularly juvenile offenders) to go at large, under a suspension of sentence, during good behavior; and generally under the supervision or guardianship of a probation officer.”
So, a convicted person is released into the community on certain terms and conditions, instead of serving the sentence in prison. During the probation period, the person must maintain good behavior and stay out of trouble. In short, they must prove that they can spend the rest of their life as law-abiding citizens.
Shock probation is a type of probation. As the name rightly suggests, the purpose of the legal provision termed as shock probation is to shock the convicted person with the realities of prison life, so that he refrains from future criminal activity.
What is Shock Probation?
Shock probation can be considered as lenience from the part of judiciary towards convicts, especially the young and first-time offenders. It is the discretion of the judge to award such probation, and no offender has the right for the same.
The defendant is sentenced to imprisonment for a certain term, and he/she serves the sentence for a few months, after which the judge may re-sentence the person to probation in the community. The provision of shock probation is not available in all states, and the relevant laws may vary from one state to another. The defendant may move the court for a shock probation, or the jury may recommend it. The state may also file a motion for awarding shock probation for a defendant. The trial court judge receives reports about the conduct of the defendant inside the prison. Maintaining good behavior, staying away from disciplinary violations, etc., are among those factors that are taken into consideration while deciding a motion for a shock probation.
Procedure: Most states have a stipulated time frame to file such a motion. For example, a person who is convicted by a Kentucky court must file a motion for shock probation within 30 to 180 days from the date of conviction. The court has to consider such a motion within 60 days of filing, and pronounce the verdict within ten days from the date of considering the motion.
Once the court receives the motion, it seeks a report from the prison authorities regarding the conduct of the offender inside the prison. A report that is favorable to the defendant, increases his chances of receiving a shock probation. However, it is the discretion of the court to grant the same or reject the motion. The court may or may not provide the defendant with a right to a hearing on the motion. The defendant who fails to file a motion for shock probation within the stipulated time frame loses the right.
Who is Eligible for Shock Probation?
Usually, young and first-time offenders receive shock probation, provided they are not convicted for grave offenses like homicide, rape, or robbery. So, shock probation is mainly granted for non-habitual offenders who are convicted for non-violent offenses. In some rare cases, shock probation is granted for probationers who have violated conditions of release or have been arrested for a new crime. If a defendant is required to serve a mandatory term of imprisonment, he is eligible for probation only after completion of that term. The eligibility criteria may vary from one state to another. In Kentucky, those who are convicted for felony and misdemeanors are eligible for shock probation. Sex offenders and those convicted for violent crimes may also get shock probation according to the laws of this state. However, those who are convicted for crimes that involve use of a weapon are ineligible. The same applies to those who commit crimes while on probation.
Shock Probation, Split Sentencing, and Shock Parole
Shock probation and split sentencing are legal provisions that are used for community release of offenders, once they undergo a short term of imprisonment. Though these terms are used interchangeably, they are two different provisions. In shock probation, the offender is sentenced to imprisonment, but is brought before the judge after completion of a few months in the prison. He is then re-sentenced to probation. In case of split sentencing, probation is included in the original sentence. So, the convicted person need not be produced before the judge for re-sentencing. In both cases, the offender is required to undergo imprisonment for a brief period, and serve the remaining sentence on probation.
Both provisions involve serving a brief period of imprisonment before release. Unlike a shock probation that is granted by the judge, a shock parole is granted by the parole authority. In some states, the convicted offender who is serving the sentence, may petition before the parole authority, if the judge rejects his motion for shock probation. In that case, the parole authority may grant shock parole after hearing the offender.
Shock Probation and Boot Camp Shock Incarceration
Boot camp shock incarceration is a severe form of intermediate sanction. In shock probation, the offenders are ‘shocked’ with a brief prison stay. In some cases, young and non-violent offenders are sent to correctional boot camps, instead of prison. The inmates are subjected to intensive physical training and hard labor. They have to participate in educational programs, vocational training, counseling, etc. After completing three to four months in a boot camp, the offenders are most often released on probation or parole. Nowadays, shock probation is being replaced with boot camp shock incarceration.
Shock probation is advantageous to the offender, who is released from the prison after serving a short term of imprisonment. However, he has to follow the terms and conditions of the probation. Violation of the clauses may lead to suspension of the probation. Shock probation does not amount to final conviction, as the sentence is suspended. So, it is not taken into consideration for prior-crime enhancement in a subsequent prosecution. In that case, the offender is not entitled to move the court for shock probation. If you get involved in a non-violent offense, for which you have been convicted; you may move the court for shock probation within the stipulated time frame. It is always better to consult your attorney, who can guide you in this matter. Keep in mind, that shock probation is not available in all states, and the laws may vary from one state to another.