How to write a letter for the early release from probation

Updated March 24, 2017

In some instances --- and if you have fulfilled all the conditions of the probation when you were sentenced --- you may petition for an early release. As well as a letter outlining how you have complied with the court's probation order, you'll supporting documents, such as probation reports and character references, to accompany your letter to the judge who will review your early release application. Remember that all letters presented to the court must be handled through your lawyer, and that terms for an early release from prison vary from state to state.

Take time to make notes to yourself about the points you want to raise in your letter. Forget the sob story, as the judge has already heard them all and will think you are complaining rather than taking responsibility for your crime. Include points like additional community activities you have been involved in --- such as coaching a sports team.

Make a list of the people you are going to ask to write character references to help support your petition to get an early release from probation. The more prominent the people ---former teachers, doctors and business owners --- the better. Credibility counts for a lot in the justice system.

Use block format and start all text on the left-hand side of the page. Rather than indenting at the beginning of each paragraph, leave a blank space between part of the business letter.

Remember to include all parts of a business letter: return address, date, inside address, salutation, body and closing. Your letter creates an impression, so make sure it is done properly.

Write on letterhead if you can. If you don't have letterhead, type your address in the top left-hand corner. Type in the date.

Enter the inside address of the court. It is the same address that is on the envelope, and it is what distinguishes business letters from friendly ones.

Begin with the salutation. The correct format for a letter requesting early probation is "To the Presiding Judge:". Check with your lawyer to see if she knows the judge's name. If so, address your letter, "Dear Judge Smithers:".

Get straight to the point: "Your Honor, I am writing to petition the court for an early release from probation." Judges are busy people and they don't want to read long-winded letters.

Write your reasons for early release in easy-to-understand language. Keep your paragraphs and sentences short. Start a new paragraph when you change ideas of how you have fulfilled the terms of your probation. Avoid run-on sentences; don't use a large word when a small one will do. Stick to a sincere tone and don't complain that the world is against you.

Recap the main points of why you feel you should be released from probation early in your final paragraph. Mention that you have suffered mental anguish and feel very remorseful for the crime you committed.

Thank the judge for reading your letter. Ask him to take it into consideration when he makes his decision. Also mention that if he requires any additional information, you would be happy to supply it.

End your letter with "Respectfully" or "Sincerely." Allow three or four spaces for your signature, then type in your name.

Attach materials to support your request for early release from probation. Ask your probation officer to write a report. Get character references from friends and family members about how much your attitude has improved and how remorseful you are.

Put your letter to the side for at least 24 hours. Check for spelling, grammar and typing errors. Check your letter against your original list and make sure you didn't forget to include any points.

Read the letter aloud. Put yourself in the judge's place and assess your letter for logical presentation and tone. Make corrections accordingly.

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About the Author

Jody Hanson began writing professionally in 1992 to help finance her second around-the-world trip. In addition to her academic books, she has written for "International Living," the "Sydney Courier" and the "Australian Woman's Forum." Hanson holds a Ph.D. in adult education from Greenwich University.