Probation: Trends in Adult Probation in the United States as Reflected Primarily in the Annual Proceedings of the National Institute on Crime and Delinquency, 1946-1961
The roots of probation go back to legal practices in English Common Law. These practices were known as benefit of clergy and release on good behavior. By these means offenders were returned to the community to serve out their sentences under the supervision of designated citizens rather than being imprisoned for their crimes. There had been a history of brutality and torture for the commission of a crime and this "probation", although that term had not yet come into use, was the first step toward more humane treatment and consideration. History does not prove that in-humanity was any deterrent and society lost sight of the fact that the "ultimate purpose of every method of dealing with crime is to prevent its recurrence." Physical abuse did not achieve this. On the contrary, it embittered the recipient and turned him further away from the society which he had offended. As a practical method, probation was introduced in the United States as early as 1841 by John Augustus, a Boston shoemaker. He provided bail for an offender who was threatened with sentence to the house of correction and assumed his supervision during a period of "probation". The term derives from the Latin, its root meaning being a "period of proving or trial". At the conclusion of this period, the offender is assumed to have proved himself able to remain in the community without further supervision. He is then discharged from the jurisdiction of the Court and the supervision of the probation officer. John Augustus, who had no official title, was so encouraged with the success of this initial effort that he aided about two thousand adults and juveniles before hi s death in 1859.
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Walsh, Joan Klintworth, "Probation: Trends in Adult Probation in the United States as Reflected Primarily in the Annual Proceedings of the National Institute on Crime and Delinquency, 1946-1961" (1962). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI30670865.