Probation is one of the most widely used sanctions in misdemeanor and felony courts, yet its purpose and methods of operation are largely unclear to most citizens. Probation is often called an “alternative to incarceration,” but in recent years it has more likely been used as an adjunct to jail and prison terms. Originally, probation diverted alcoholic men and women from local jail sentences and offered them a chance to reform themselves under the guidance of a volunteer overseer. Historically, probation cases have come to involve increasingly serious offenses, including various degrees of felony crimes. Nowadays, probation officers have case-loads that comprise a diverse group of offenders who have committed a wide range of offenses. Ever since the Middle Ages, sanctions have been developed to mitigate the harshness and punitiveness of usual penalties such as corporal punishment, death, and social exclusion. Benefit of clergy, judicial reprieve, sanctuary, and abjuration are ...