The Importance of Purpose in Probation Decision Making

62 Pages Posted: 23 Nov 2003 Last revised: 9 Mar 2008

See all articles by Wayne A. Logan

Wayne A. Logan

Florida State University - College of Law


Articulation of purpose is, and should be, an important feature of any governmental activity. Since 1962, and the publication of the Model Penal Code, governments have increasingly seen fit to identify the purposes of punishment. To the extent such purposes have been expressly identified, however, they have primarily related to imprisonment, informing the duration inquiry. Governments have been far less dedicated to the articulation of the purposes of probation, a disposition that today easily accounts for the majority of penal outcomes in U.S. courts.

This paper explores the role of purpose in probation decision making. It begins with a historical survey of probation, before and after the Model Penal Code, and assesses the unfortunate effects of purposelessness, a deficit the Code's probation provisions did little to ameliorate. The paper observes that as probation has become increasingly diversified in its applications over time, the absence of identified purpose in probation decisions has become all the more problematic. In its final part, the paper discusses the importance of articulated purpose in probation decision making, both with regard to decisions to grant probation and the types of probation conditions to which particular individuals are potentially subject.

Keywords: probation, purposes of punishment, purposes of probation, model penal code

JEL Classification: K14

Suggested Citation

Logan, Wayne A., The Importance of Purpose in Probation Decision Making. Buffalo Criminal Law Review, Vol. 6, 2003, Available at SSRN:

Wayne A. Logan (Contact Author)

Florida State University - College of Law ( email )

425 W. Jefferson Street
Tallahassee, FL 32306
United States

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