Ideally, I do not think that the way we use probation is the right way. However, it is not at all clear that the ideal way to use probation is actually feasible.
In today’s world, probation tends to be used as strategy for risk management. The main point of probation seems to be to keep offenders under relatively tight supervision to make it less likely that they will commit further crimes. In other words, probation is seen as a way to reduce the risk of crime without actually going to the expense of incarcerating offenders.
My own view is that we would be better off if probation were used more as a means of rehabilitating convicts and reintegrating them into society. It would be ideal if probation were focused on ensuring that convicts would learn skills and would be able to join society again after having spent some time in prison. This might help with recidivism rates and might also reduce the terrible problems we have with incarcerating such large proportions of our population.
However, it is hard to know if we will be able to use probation in this way as American society seems to be less apt to embrace ideas of rehabilitation than those of punishment.