Some people believe that sentencing should be about punishing someone. They would happily see those convicted of crimes locked up with the keys thrown away.
Others have more faith in people. They realize that anyone can make mistakes and believe people can change.
Parole and probation are two options to avoid people spending years behind bars. Here is how they work:
Probation is your chance to avoid a custodial sentence
A sentencing judge can opt to put you on probation rather than send you straight to prison. They give you a chance to behave yourself and show that you do need to be kept away from the public. If you succeed, you stay out of jail. If you mess up, then you go behind bars.
Parole is a way to end your custodial sentence earlier
You may be eligible for parole after serving part of your sentence. If so, you can argue you have learned yoru lesson, do not pose a threat to anyone and do not need to be taking up space in the penitentiary system.
If the parole board approves your application, provided you comply with all the conditions they set out, you do not need to step behind bars again. If you breach your parole condition, you could be sent back to serve the rest of your sentence in prison.
Not everyone is eligible for probation or parole. It depends partly on the crime you are accused of, although many other factors play into it.
Getting legal help to argue why you do not need to be kept behind bars will be crucial to increasing the likelihood you succeed.