Probation refers to adult offenders whom courts place on supervision in the community through a probation agency, generally in lieu of incarceration. However, some jurisdictions do sentence probationers to a combined short-term incarceration sentence immediately followed by probation, which is referred to as a split sentence.
Probationers can have a number of different supervision statuses, including active supervision, which means they are required to regularly report to a probation authority in person, by mail, or by telephone. Some probationers may be on an inactive status, which means they are excluded from regularly reporting, and that could be due to a number of reasons. For instance, some probationers may be placed on inactive status immediately because the severity of the offense was minimal or some may receive a reduction in supervision and therefore may be moved from an active to inactive status. Other supervision statuses include probationers who only have financial conditions remaining, have absconded, or who have active warrants.
In many instances, while on probation, offenders are required to fulfill certain conditions of their supervision (e.g., payment of fines, fees or court costs, participation in treatment programs) and adhere to specific rules of conduct while in the community. Failure to comply with any conditions can result in incarceration.