How do I Write a Probation Letter?

Keith Koons

In many situations, a well-written probation letter can ultimately be the deciding factor for an inmate to be released from custody. While the panel making the determination often has all kinds of statistics at its disposal, none of them show the character of the inmate in question or what he plans to do if he is released back into society. Since the inmate will only have mere seconds to relay all of this information during the proceeding, it often helps to advise the panel of these traits beforehand. For this reason alone, a strong probation letter should include how the inmate can positively impact his community, where he will be working, and why his crime was an isolated incident that will not be repeated.

If a victim requests that an inmate remain in incarceration in a probation letter, then the prisoner is usually not released.
If a victim requests that an inmate remain in incarceration in a probation letter, then the prisoner is usually not released.

The main thing that the panel determining probation can not see is the family that is supporting the inmate and, often, words of compassion are enough to return a favorable verdict. Any individuals that are dependent on the inmate should prepare a probation letter that points out his positive traits, such as being a good role model or an unselfish friend in a time of need. Showing that members of the community have need for the inmate is a strong indicator of his character, so it is important that a probation letter highlights these features.

Showing the panel that the inmate has a permanent residence and steady employment upon release are also two critical factors of a probation letter. Statistically, inmates are much more likely to return to a life of crime if finances are not immediately available for them to support themselves or their families. If these problems are non-existent, there is a much higher chance of release.

Probation panels also want to hear about the crime itself, which is often the most difficult aspect for the inmate to explain convincingly. Regardless of what actually happened, a probation letter should point out that the inmate's life has been impacted so severely that there is absolutely no chance of a repeat performance. If there were additional circumstances that were involved at the time of the crime that no longer exist, they should also be pointed out. Becoming sober, severing ties with bad influences, and moving to a different geographical region would all support the claim that the inmate is genuinely seeking to put the past behind him.

Another massive factor in a probation letter is mentioning any victims from the case—whenever possible, they should be asked to prepare a statement on behalf of the inmate. Regardless of any other circumstance, if a victim requests that an inmate remain in incarceration, then the prisoner is usually not released. Having this nod of approval from victims dramatically increases the chances of a favorable ruling.

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