Overview of the Adult Probation Supervision Process

What is probation?

Probation is a type of sentence following a criminal conviction that allows an individual to remain in the community under the supervision of a probation officer. Probation usually involves complying with specific conditions, like reporting to a probation officer, paying any fines or fees, not possessing a firearm and informing the court of any address changes. Special conditions may also be ordered by the judge, including drug testing, participating in drug or mental health treatment, curfews, going to school or maintaining employment.

Probation is often presented as an alternative to incarceration, but Illinois law treats probation as the presumed sentence for many types of common offenses. The benefits of remaining in the community while serving a sentence are reflected in this presumption. Probation allows individuals under supervision to:

  • Make positive changes in their lives to become productive citizens
  • Continue with daily responsibilities, like going to work, going to school and caring for family members
  • Attend treatment, counseling or doctor's visits
  • Develop or maintain ties to the community

Probation is different from parole. Where probation is a sentence issued by a judge for a criminal conviction, parole is a period of supervised release after a person has spent time in prison. Both probation and parole are types of community supervision, but the circumstances that led to that supervision are different.



What happens on probation?

Probation starts with a sentence to a specific term of supervision, setting specific conditions and the assignment of a probation officer. Probation can end in several different ways depending on an individual's compliance with conditions, whether they were charged with a new offense and many other factors. Throughout a term of probation, a probation officer will monitor conditions, make referrals and report progress back to court.

    Adult Probation Department

    Probation Process

    A term of probation starts with either a guilty plea or a conviction. The judge will typically work with the Assistant State's Attorney and the Assistant Public Defender or defense counsel to set conditions of probation and any other special considerations for the term of supervision. Upon sentencing, a representative of the Adult Probation Department in the courtroom will provide the individual with their assigned probation officer and their first report date.

    At the first report date, the assigned probation officer will conduct a guided interview with the individual that covers several different domains. The interview is used to score the department's risk and needs assessment, the Adult Risk Assessment (ARA). The probation officer will use the results of the assessment to set a reporting frequency, guide programming and referrals, and develop a supervision plan.

    The supervision plan is a collaborative effort between the individual and the probation officer to identify goals and objectives to work towards during the term of probation. The supervision plan is updated regularly with input from the individual as objectives are completed. The assigned probation officer may regularly report on the individual's progress to the court. As part of the supervision plan, the probation officer may make referrals to services that are not included as special conditions, but that may help the individual work towards goals and objectives.

    One of the main elements of the probation process is compliance with conditions of probation. The assigned probation officer will work with the individual to keep them on track and provide support and referrals. If the individual is not reporting to their officer as required or making progress on their conditions, the officer may respond to non-compliance with an administrative sanction or by filing a petition to violate probation. Sanctions allow the department to work with individuals outside of a court setting to get them back into compliance. A violation of probation results in a court hearing to determine whether the violation will move forward and to determine any sanctions.

    Violations of probation may result in sanctions like additional special conditions or incarceration in the Cook County Jail. Depending on the type of violation, the judge may also revoke probation and resentence the individual to prison time, jail time or a new term of probation.

    As the scheduled termination date approaches, the assigned officer will report back to the court on the status of any special conditions. At the scheduled termination hearing, the court will review progress on conditions, reporting history and compliance with probation. The judge will determine whether probation was completed satisfactory or unsatisfactory. Unsatisfactory termination of probation may result in other legal consequences, including making an individual ineligible for diversion programs in the future.

    Adult Probation Department

    Conditions of Probation

    A probation sentence will typically include two types of conditions: standard conditions that are required by law and special conditions that a judge may order based on the circumstances of an individual case. Some special types of probation have both mandatory and optional conditions that must be completed to receive the legal benefits of that probation (including having charges dismissed or a conviction vacated).

    Standard conditions include:

    • Report to Adult Probation
    • Pay required reporting fees
    • Pay fines, fees and court costs
    • Do not violate the criminal statute of any jurisdiction
    • Do not possess a firearm or other dangerous weapon
    • Notify Adult Probation of any address change
    • Do not leave the state of Illinois without approval
    • Comply with reporting and treatment requirements
    • Submit to DNA indexing (felony convictions only)

    Special conditions include, but are not limited to:

    • Pay restitution
    • Obtain or maintain employment
    • Attend school
    • Submit to random drug testing
    • Perform community service
    • Attend cognitive behavioral programming
    • Complete a behavioral health evaluation
    • Complete behavioral health treatment
    • Register as an offender on any specified registry lists
    • Observe a curfew

    Adult Probation Department

    Violations of Probation & Sanctions

    Violations of probation (VOPs) typically occur when an individual is failing to make sufficient progress on their conditions or is otherwise out of compliance with their supervision. In many cases, the assigned probation officer will work with the individual to identify and address barriers to compliance before a VOP is filed with the court. This may include the use of the department's administrative sanction process, which allows the individual and the assigned officer to agree on a sanction and develop a plan to get into compliance with the terms of probation. However, some circumstances require a VOP to be filed with the court.

    When a VOP is being filed, the assigned officer creates a petition to violate that includes allegations of non-compliance and any steps taken to address these issues. A letter is sent to the individual notifying them of a scheduled court date that requires their appearance. At this hearing, the Assistant State's Attorney will decide whether to pursue the violation and the judge will decide whether to allow the violation to proceed. There may be additional court hearings scheduled to give the individual opportunities to get back into compliance before a sanction is issued. If the individual demonstrates progress, the violation may be withdrawn. If sufficient progress is not made, the judge may issue a sanction, which can include revocation of probation.

    The department's administrative sanction process is meant to promote accountability outside of the formal court process. Department policy allows officers to modify reporting frequency, drug testing frequency, or to take other actions to sanction non-compliance. Officers also try to work with individuals to address barriers to compliance to avoid further sanctions.

    Adult Probation Department

    Preparing for an Appointment

    When you are sentenced to probation, you will be given information about when and where to report for your first appointment. Assignments to a probation officer are usually made based on the ZIP code where you live, which may be different from the courthouse where you were sentenced. To best prepare for your first appointment with your probation officer, you should bring:

    • A current, valid photo ID (driver's license, passport, state ID, military ID, school ID, etc.)
    • Any paperwork you were given in court when you were sentenced to probation (sentencing order, list of special conditions, other signed agreements, etc.)
    • Documents that verify your address (utility bills, copy of a lease, mortgage agreement, property tax statements, etc.)
    • Documents that verify your employment (pay stubs, official schedule, letter from your employer on letterhead, etc.)
    • Documents that verify your school enrollment (class schedule, enrollment paperwork, etc.)
    • Documents that verify your treatment enrollment (intake paperwork, letter from your treatment provider on letterhead, etc.)

    For ongoing appointment with your probation officer, you should bring any documents that verify updates to your address, employment, school enrollment, or treatment enrollment. Your officer may also ask you to bring verification of steps you have taken towards completing special conditions, like community service, counseling sessions or offender registration (if required).


    Types of Probation Supervision

      Standard probation supervision is the department’s main supervision program, including around 80% of the department’s caseload. Standard supervision is a sentencing option that requires probationers to comply with court ordered conditions of probation, while they remain in the community. Probation officers use a combination of evidence-based supervision techniques and referrals to community-based treatment and resource providers to address individual needs and promote pro-social behavior change. Typical sentences to standard probation are 18-24 months.

      Learn more about standard probation supervision here.

      Intrastate and interstate compact supervision is a program that allows individuals who are sentenced to probation from outside of Cook County to be supervised by the Cook County Adult Probation Department. Intrastate cases are sentenced in other Illinois counties and may be transferred to Cook County under statutory rules and regulations and Administrative Office of the Illinois Court policies. Interstate cases are sentenced outside of Illinois and may be transferred to Cook County under several federal and state statutes, regulations, and judicial opinions. Interstate transfers are governed by the Interstate Commission for Adult Offender Supervision (ICAOS) and are facilitated using the Interstate Compact Offender Tracking System (ICOTS).

      Individuals under supervision cannot leave the state without prior permission from the judge. 

      Learn more about compact supervision here.

      Problem Solving Court (PSC) supervision includes several different program types that target specific behavioral health needs or special populations. The Adult Probation Department participates in all 20 of the Circuit Court’s PSC programs, including drug treatment courts, mental health courts, and veterans’ courts. These programs offer structured approaches to the supervision process and include hands-on involvement from a dedicated team of court personnel and treatment providers. All PSCs follow certification standards from the Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts and use best practices and evidence-based practices in their operations.

      Learn more about PSC supervision here.

      Mental Health Unit (MHU) supervision is a specialized probation program that focuses on individuals with severe and chronic mental illness. This type of supervision is a sentencing option separate from the Problem Solving Courts in key ways. Eligibility for MHU supervision is different from the mental health courts, with different restrictions on criminal history. MHU participants are not part of a multidisciplinary team like the mental health courts, so probation officers in this unit take a more active role in coordinating mental health services and treatment. More common diagnoses for individuals supervised by MHU include schizophrenia, major depression with psychosis, and bipolar disorder. Individuals eligible for this unit may also present with both mental health concerns and substance use disorders.

      Learn more about MHU here.

      The Adult Sex Offender Program (ASOP) is a specialized probation program that provides intensive, coordinated, and comprehensive supervision for individuals convicted of probation-eligible, felony sex offenses. ASOP supervision is a sentencing option focused on holding individuals accountable for their behavior, while promoting effective treatment to reduce the likelihood of reoffending. This approach includes long-term treatment with dedicated treatment agencies, enforcement of required registration with federal and state databases, and high-intensity surveillance to monitor compliance with conditions. Individuals supervised by ASOP are monitored by specialized probation officers who conduct increased office and field reporting, curfew checks, and regular searches for unauthorized sexually explicit material.

      Learn more about ASOP here.

      Effective Practices in Community Supervision (EPICS) program is a Risk-Needs-Responsivity model using specially-trained probation officers to implement a structured approach to their interactions with individuals under supervision. This training emphasizes the use of principles of effective intervention and core correctional practices during interactions with clients. EPICS supervision is a sentencing option for high-risk individuals and those with an elevated risk for violent recidivism. The program uses supervision strategies designed to reduce the recidivism for these populations, including reduced caseload sizes and cognitive behavioral interventions. Probation officers in this program have received intensive training in the EPICS model, which includes ongoing skill building and coaching.

      Learn more about EPICS here.

      Illinois law specifies several different types of special probation sentences that target certain types of offenses, individuals with certain backgrounds, or a combination of both. Each of the probation types listed below has specific eligibility criteria. They also require a plea of guilty and agreement from the State's Attorney's Office and the defendant to participate. Some of these supervision types have special conditions that must be followed, such as community service, substance abuse testing, treatment evaluations, or participating in other programming as required. Many of these special supervision types allow for the conviction to be vacated or the charges to be dismissed upon successful completion, allowing the individual to avoid a felony conviction. Individuals who successfully complete these programs may also be eligible to have the arrest expunged.

      Special probation types include:

      • 1st Time Offender Probation (730 ILCS 5/5-6-3.3
      • 1st Time Weapons Offense Probation (730 ILCS 5/5-6-3.6)
      • 410 Probation (Controlled Substances Act, 720 ILCS 570/410)
      • 550 Probation (Cannabis Control Act, 720 ILCS 550/10)
      • 70 Probation (Methamphetamine Control & Community Protection Act, 720 ILCS 646/70)
      • Child Endangerment Probation (720 ILCS 5/12C-15)
      • Second Chance Probation (730 ILCS 5/5-6-3.4)
      • TASC Probation (20 ILCS 301/40-5)