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Bay Area Criminal Defense Blog

SWAP Alternative to Jail in Alameda County

Posted by Lynn Gorelick | Apr 20, 2022

Serving time in jail can be very disruptive to your life. Even a short jail sentence may cause problems with your employment, education, and family life. With a jail sentence, you may be unable to earn an income, which can compound the problems and make it more difficult to get back to a normal life after you are released. 

If your East Bay criminal defense attorney can negotiate a jail alternative, then you may be able to avoid jail time if you comply with the conditions of release. There are several times of jail alternatives, including: 

  • Probation
  • Home detention
  • Drug treatment programs
  • Family treatment programs
  • Diversion programs
  • Deferred prosecution
  • Community service
  • Work alternative programs

Some county courts allow individuals to serve part of a work-release program, as an alternative to confinement for low-risk offenders. 

Sheriff's Work Alternative Program

Contra Costa County and Alameda County have Sheriff's Work Alternative Programs (SWAP), which the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office describes as “a community based, light manual labor program offered to low-risk offenders in lieu of incarceration.”

SWAP allows participants to perform 8 to 10 hours of work in lieu of one day confinement in jail. SWAP sites are generally public agency sites in the county, including parks, schools, community centers, county fairs, and animal control. The work performed is generally manual, unskilled labor, including sweeping, basic landscaping, washing vehicles, and building clean-up. 

In general, participants will be provided a list of rules and requirements for the program and sign the instructions to show they accept the terms and conditions of the work program. If participants violate the terms of the program or are absent for 2 or more days, they may be incarcerated in the county jail. Excused absences have to have written notification and are subject to approval. 

Transportation to the worksite is generally the responsibility of the participant. Participants are required to show up on time (usually 15 minutes early) to the site location and complete the entire length of time for their assignment to receive credit. If the participant fails to report or is sent home for misconduct, they will not receive credit for time worked. Violations may include appearing impaired, under the influence of drugs, having weapons, or an unpermitted cell phone. 

The Sheriff's Office manages workers on a work alternative program but the individual must be referred to SWAP by the sentencing court. In 2017, more than 2,300 people participated in Alameda County SWAP, for misdemeanor sentences of up to 365 days. Felony convictions and sex offenders under California Penal Code PC §290 are ineligible for SWAP.

Sheriff's Work In-Lieu Program

The Sheriff's Work In-Lieu Program is similar to SWAP but applies to inmates who have less than 30 days remaining in their sentence. 

Don't Go to Court Alone

If you are facing the possibility of jail time for a minor offense, you may be able to avoid jail time with the help of an experienced East Bay defense attorney. Your attorney can negotiate with the prosecutor and the court to help you stay out of jail. East Bay attorney Lynn Gorelick has more than 38 years of criminal defense experience and understands the challenges involved. Contact a local criminal defense lawyer who understands criminal defense strategies and plea bargain negotiations.

About the Author

Lynn Gorelick

Lynn Gorelick has been an attorney for over 38 years. She is the Attorney Lynn Gorelick is the Immediate Past President of the California DUI Lawyers Association and a Faculty and Sustaining member of the National College of DUI Defense. Lynn is a Specialist Member of the California DUI Lawyers Association and lectures frequently to other attorneys regarding DUI and DMV issues.

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