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KBIA’s Health & Wealth Desk covers the economy and health of rural and underserved communities in Missouri and beyond. The team produces a weekly radio segment, as well as in-depth features and regular blog posts. The reporting desk is funded by a grant from the University of Missouri, and the Missouri Foundation for Health.Contact the Health & Wealth desk.

While a shared system, probation and parole impact Missourians' lives in different ways

Katie Quinn

Thousands of Missourians are currently on probation and parole, and while the two terms are often used together, they affect a person’s life in completely different ways.

Mary Beth Lammey, the policy and procedure coordinator at the Department of Corrections, has worked at the DOC for over 25 years. She sat down with KBIA’s Katie Quinn to talk about the differences between probation and parole and her advice for the justice-involved.

"Probation gives them an opportunity to stay in the community, to stay working, to stay home with their family."
Mary Beth Lammey

Katie Quinn: I would love it if you could just define for me probation and parole.

Mary Beth Lammey: I think it can really be defined by the difference of who they report to and who has jurisdiction over their case. That's probably the easiest distinction.

So, probation clients: their sentence is being suspended, and not going to prison and instead being placed on probation supervision, and so their jurisdiction remains with the court. So, the court can – is their deciding authority on what occurs if they violate their probation or anything in that manner.

Parole cases have actually – they may have started on probation, or they may have just been sentenced straight to prison. So, parolees they come out after doing time within our institutions. They come out on parole. The difference there is if a parolee were to violate their conditions, it's the Parole Board who has authority over our parolees, not the court.

So that's the big difference. Probationers – the court has authority over them. Parolees – the Parole Board has the ultimate authority over them.

Quinn: Could you give some examples of what probation looks like? I feel like I'm someone who doesn't really know. I think of community service – that's the first thing that comes to mind – but what does it actually look like?

Lammey: Community service is, you know, one thing that a lot of our clients on probation do do or the judge may order. There are standard conditions that all individuals on probation or parole have to follow. So, there's 10 standard conditions that everyone has to follow same rules, and then there's an 11th one that's called special conditions, and those will be specific to each individual.

So, the court will decide what's special conditions the client must do for probation cases, and the Board, of course, would decide what special conditions for parolee. Those special conditions can be anything like pay restitution if it were stealing case, complete community service, it may be no contact with a victim, it may be do not drink alcohol. Those, you know, special conditions can be just about anything.

But probation gives them an opportunity to stay in the community, to stay working, to stay home with their family so they can be productive, taxpaying citizens, and stay with their families and their children.

Quinn: What are the biggest misconceptions you think about with probation and parole?

Lammey: That we are out to get people in and send them back to prison. That is not our goal. I can tell you the goal of the Department of Corrections: if we could close prisons and put us out of work, absolutely, that is what we would want to do. I will go find another job. If I can close prisons and you know, obviously, stop crime and increase public safety. [That] is one of our biggest goals.

Quinn: What's your advice for someone who's currently on probation or parole?

Lammey: Keep in contact with your officer and let them help you. Be open to help. Open your mind and be open to help. Be open to change. We are here to help. We are here to be your coach in life and help you through anything that we can help you with.

Katie Quinn works for Missouri Business Alert. She studied radio journalism and political science at the University of Missouri- Columbia, and previously worked at KBIA.
Anna Spidel is a health reporter for the KBIA Health & Wealth desk. A proud Michigander, Anna hails from Dexter, Michigan and received her Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from Michigan State University in 2022. Previously, she worked with member station Michigan Radio as an assistant producer on Stateside.
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