State probation is a condition granted to inmates that allows them to leave the prison system and live at a court-approved residence. This privilege is normally granted only to inmates who demonstrate excellent behavior and a strong work ethic, and a number of conditions are attached to the state probation status remaining in effect. These rules vary by state or province, but normally include clauses that restrict the inmates from places they are allowed to visit and activities they can participate in. Inmates are also generally required to hold employment, avoid any conflicts with law enforcement, and visit a probation officer on regular intervals.
Usually, state probation is first discussed during the actual sentencing date when the person is convicted of a crime. The judge will determine the length of the prison sentence and the number of years required before the inmate becomes eligible for probation, which is usually after at least a third of the total incarceration time is served. Once a state probation date is reached, the inmate will appear before a panel and present his reasoning on why the system should allow him to leave prison early. If the panel believes that the inmate is no longer a threat to society and other conditions are met, there is a chance that state probation will be granted.
Of course, there are many other factors involved with state probation being granted. Inmates will often appeal to prominent members of their community to speak on their behalf if they feel like the sentencing exceeded the severity of the crime, and others will seek letters of recommendation whenever possible. The inmate's behavioral history while incarcerated often plays a large factor in the panel's decision on whether or not state probation is granted, as does his work history and general attitude while behind bars. Unfortunately, there are often many more eligible candidates for state probation than there are available slots, and it takes many inmates several tries before being accepted into the program.
Once released on state probation, inmates are required to meet a number of conditions. They must seek employment immediately and be able to hold a permanent address, plus there are usually a number of other restrictions that prohibit them from using drugs, alcohol, or visiting questionable establishments. In fact, if an inmate on state probation commits any infraction at all, he can be sent back to jail for the remainder of his sentence, so something as simple as an illegal parking ticket could have dire consequences.