|The Father of Probation in America:
Over one hundred-fifty years ago, a Boston, Massachusetts shoemaker first began the practice of probation in criminal justice. In August of 1841, John Augustus convinced a police court judge to release into his custody a man convicted of being a "common drunkard." Augustus took this man into his home, found him a job and made him sign a pledge that he would stop drinking. After the man had been on probation for three weeks, the judge was so impressed with his sober and dignified appearance that he waived the usual penalty - 30 days in the House of Corrections - and instead levied a fine of one cent plus court costs ($3.76)
Encouraged by his success, Augustus continued to offer assistance to convicted criminals. The cobbler-turned a social reformer believed that first-time offenders could be rehabilitated if they were spared the crime-hardening experience of a prison sentence. Kindness and a helping hand - not state prison - were the most effective ways to reform criminals and reduce crime. When Augustus died in 1859, he had rescued from prison 1,946 petty criminals, only 10 of whom proved unworthy. Nineteen years later, in 1878, Massachusetts enacted the world's first probation law.
From its modest beginning, probation has grown into the most common form of penal sanction. Today, nearly two-thirds of the US correctional population is on probation, compared with 27 percent in jail or prison and 12 percent on parole.
(This excerpt was taken from an article, entitled How One Man Proved Probation Can Work, published in the Boston Herald in August of 1991. It was written by Richard Moran, Professor of Sociology at Mount Holyoke College, Massachusetts.