Brief History of Probation & Parole

Probation and parole were unknown in the early years of statehood. Criminal sentences were for definite periods of time and had to be fully served. Until 1860, executive pardons were the only means for early release. Chapter 324, Laws of 1860, established early releases for good behavior, known as "good time." Calculations of good time ended with the adoption of mandatory release dates for crimes committed after May 31, 1984. Parole was first enacted in 1889 but was apparently invalidated by the Wisconsin State Supreme Court. Parole provisions were enacted in 1897 for the Wisconsin State Reformatory and for the state prison in Chapter 110, Laws of 1907, which allowed the State Board of Control to parole prisoners with the governor's approval. The requirement that the governor approve paroles was removed in 1947. The same agency was given supervisory responsibility for prisoners placed on probation in 1909. Currently, the Parole Commission, created in 1989, has final authority in granting discretionary paroles.