Parole and probation are similar in some ways, different in others. Both terms apply to anyone convicted of a crime. Both terms require that the person convicted comply with all related conditions. Noncompliance with parole or probation conditions can mean that the convicted person will be confined in a jail or prison.

Tennessee generally defines probation and parole as follows:


Probation is a condition of plea agreement or a sentencing hearing for conviction of a crime. Instead of incarceration, the defendant is placed under the supervision of a probation officer for part or all of their sentence. For example, a defendant may be sentenced to a two year sentence which includes one year of local prison confinement and one year of probation.

The probation officer can charge the individual with violating probation for failing drug tests, not meeting with the probation officer at schedule times, not performing required community service, another arrest, or for other reasons. Probation is generally awarded and supervised by a local judge. An arrest will lead to a separate new criminal case.


Parole is a condition of release for someone who is already serving a sentence in jail or prison. The decision to grant or deny parole is made by the Tennessee Board of Probation and Parole, after there is a hearing. The case is heard by hearing officers. The hearing officers can decide that the convicted person should be released and supervised by a parole officer. As with probation, a parole officer can request that the person’s parole be revoked if they are arrested for another crime, fail to meet with the parole officer, or violate any terms of the parole order. If parole is revoked, the parolee will then serve the remainder of his/her original sentenced. The parolee can also be tried for new crimes if a new arrest occurs.

By Tennessee law, those convicted of a crime must serve part of their sentence before they are eligible for parole.  Parole hearings require that that trial judge, the district attorney, and the sheriff for the county where the crime occurred all receive notice of the parole hearing. Victims of the offense also have the right to receive notice of the parole hearing – if they made a timely request to receive notice of parole hearings. The Parole Board generally hears arguments for and against allowing parole. The arguments can be made orally at the hearing. Generally, letters in advance of the hearing are also accepted. Parole hearings are open to the public.

Factors used in considering parole

Parole will be denied if one of the following conditions apply:

  • The individual under consideration for parole poses a substantial risk that he/she won’t comply with the conditions of parole
  • The release would “depreciate the seriousness of the crime of which the defendant stands convicted or promote disrespect for the law”
  • “The release from custody at the time would have a substantially adverse effect on institutional discipline”
  • The individual would be better served if parole is delayed so the defendant can continue “correctional treatment, medical care or vocational or other training in the institution”

The Parole Board also considers community support and opposition to parole.

One of the key conditions for parole is that the offender must work in a lawful job, unless he/she is certified as being disabled.

There is hope for people convicted of crimes. One hope is that if they work towards showing they will be productive citizens after being jailed, a defendant may be considered for parole. Preparation is crucial in parole hearings. The experienced criminal defense lawyers at the Law Offices of Adrian H. Altshuler & Associates work to address the concerns the government, victims, and the community have about granting someone parole. To learn your rights, call or have someone on your behalf call us at  615-977-9370. Or complete the contact form to speak with an experienced criminal defense lawyer. We represent defendants in Franklin, Columbia and Brentwood.