Frequently Answered Questions 

Q.  Is probation the same as parole?
A.  Unlike parole, which supervises individuals after their release from incarceration, probation is itself a sentence. It is one of several sentencing options available to judges. In Illinois, probation and parole operate independently. The parole department is under the direction of the state and probation agencies are under the direction of the various circuit courts throughout the state. 

Q.  Is probation the alternative to prison?
A.  No, though it is done with great frequency, referring to probation as “the alternative to prison” is misleading.  Probation is by far the most frequently used sentencing option in the country - nearly two thirds of all convicted criminals are placed on probation. In Illinois, the number of probationers is approximately two and one-half times the prison population. 

Q.  Is probation only a “slap on the wrist” devoid of punitive and rehabilitative value?
A.  No, probation requires individuals to be responsible, holds them accountable and can include many rehabilitative components. Community supervision is effective at reducing rates of rearrest when it is properly funded and when combined with treatment, education, and employment services. The punitive value of probation is revealed by the fact that many individuals, when given the option, would rather be put in prison than deal with the demands that are placed on them when they are supervised in the community.  This is especially true what considering such programs as intensive probation supervision. 

Q.  Is there only one type of probation supervision?
A.  Conditions and strategies of supervision can vary a great deal and can be tailored to meet the unique risks and needs of individuals and of specific probationer populations. The Adult Probation Department employs different levels of supervision and operates numerous specialized programs designed for specific probationer populations including the Intensive Probation Supervision, the Intensive Drug Program, the Sex Offender Program, the Mental Health Unit, the Gang Unit, domestic violence supervision, and the specialty (problem-solving) courts. 

Q.  What should I do if I missed an appointment with my probation officer or if I miss a court appearance?
A.  You should immediately call your probation officer to reschedule a missed appointment. Failure to do so can result in your case being violated. If you miss a court appearance, contact your probation officer and he/she will check the status of your case with the Clerk of the Circuit Court. You will then be instructed on the best way to proceed in bring your case back before the court. 

Q.  What happens if a probationer doesn't follow his or her court order?
A.  If a probationer does not comply with the conditions of the court order and the requirements of the Adult Probation Department, his or her case will be returned to court for a violation hearing.  At this hearing, the judge determines if the case should be continued to allow additional time to achieve compliance or determines that the individual is indeed in violation of the original court order.  If the individual is present in court, the judge makes a decision at that time.  If the individual is not present in court, a warrant may be issued for his or her arrest. 

Q.  If I change my address while under the authority of the Cook County Adult Probation Department, am I required to notify the department?
A.  Yes, regardless of the type of sentence you are serving, you must contact the Adult Probation Department immediately. Failure to do so may cause you to miss an appointment, payment, or court date which can violate your case. 

Q.  If I get arrested on a new offense or receive a ticket for Driving Under the Influence or Driving with Revoked License, what will happen?
A.  The first thing you need to do is contact your probation officer to inform them of your recent arrest. If you choose not to tell your probation officer, they will become aware of your new arrest within a short period of time as they conduct regular arrest checks on all probationers. It is in your best interest to contact your probation officer as soon as possible. Your probation officer will then prepare notification to the court of your new arrest and will set a court date for you to appear on a violation of your sentence. The judge will make an appropriate determination based on the circumstances of your arrest. 

Q.  What is 1410/710 probation?
A.  A sentence of 1410/710 probation can be used by judges in sentencing first time drug offenders.  At the time of sentencing, you plead guilty and a motion to vacate your plea is entered into the court record and continued until your termination date. When you have successfully completed your probation sentence, the conviction is vacated.  Be advised however, that your criminal record will still show that you were arrested and charged with a felony drug offense. If after a period of five years from the date that your probation terminated satisfactorily you have no other felony convictions, you can apply to have your case expunged. The Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County will be able to assist you in filing paperwork to have your case expunged. 

Q.  How do I find out information about someone on probation?
A.  Calling the Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County will allow you access to any information that is considered public record.  The Adult Probation Department is unable to release any department information based on ILCS 110/12 (4) “ To preserve complete and accurate records of cases investigated, including a description of the person investigated, the action of the court with respect to his cases and his probation, the subsequent history of such person, if he becomes a probationer, during the continuance of his probation, which records shall be open to inspection by any judge or any other probation officers pursuant to order of court, but shall not be a public record, and its contents shall not be divulged otherwise than as above provided, except upon order of court.” 

Q.  May I travel while I am on probation?
A.  Before you make any travel arrangements to travel outside of the State of Illinois, you and your probation officer will need to file a motion before the court to request permission to travel. You will need to provide information as to where you are planning to travel, the dates of travel, where you will be staying, and the reason why you wish to travel. The judge will make a determination regarding your travel plans.
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