No one wants to spend time in a jail cell. Even if you are found guilty of a crime, losing your livelihood to spend 30 days, 6 months, or a year in jail is an extreme step to punish someone. Jail time doesn't help the community, the victims, or the defendant's family. It can also make it hard for the defendant to get back into society after release.
There are alternatives to time in jail, including house arrest. House arrest is still a serious sentencing penalty. However, it can allow the individual to remain a productive member of society instead of a burden on the penal system.
If you want to know about jail alternatives, including house arrest or electronic monitoring, talk to your criminal defense attorney. Contact an experienced East Bay criminal defense lawyer for legal advice about your criminal case.
What Are Prison Alternatives?
There are several alternatives to serving a sentence in county jail, state prison, or a federal penitentiary. There are still conditions to comply with and failing to comply could mean you can get sent directly to jail. Possible jail alternatives include:
- House arrest
- Drug treatment
- Diversion programs
- Deferred prosecution
- Work alternative programs (SWAP)
- Community service
What Is House Arrest?
According to the Department of Justice, "House arrest is a sentence in which offenders are ordered by the court to remain confined in their residences, usually allowed to leave only for medical and employment reasons."
Under California Penal Code 1203.016, judges can sentence defendants to their place of residence instead of jail. "The participant shall remain within the interior premises of the participant's residence during the hours designated by the correctional administrator."
House arrest, also known as home detention, allows the individual to serve out their sentence under the terms of supervision within their approved residence, instead of behind bars. Depending on the terms of home detention, the individual may only be able to leave for:
- Medical reasons
- Business reasons
- Seeking employment
House arrest generally uses an electronic monitoring anklet to detect and report your location, including if you move too far away from the approved residence. Any violations of leaving your residence will be reported. Penalties for violations can include revoking home detention, imprisonment, or additional penalties.
In addition to monitoring location, SCRAM monitors can also detect alcohol through the skin. If staying sober is a condition of your house arrest, the monitor can also monitor if you consume alcohol and report any violations.
Pros and Cons of House Arrest
There are many advantages to using house arrest as an option in criminal sentencing. However, there are also some downsides to consider.
House arrest is more cost-effective than incarceration. The average cost of prison for an inmate in California is more than $106,000 per year, according to the Legislative Analyst's Office. The annual cost of GPS monitoring in California is only about $13,000, saving taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars for just one individual. Many participants also pay the costs of monthly supervision to further reduce the costs to the state.
Responsive to the Needs of the Community and Offender
House arrest can be tailored to the needs of the community and the offender. If the offender provides a positive force in their family and community, it can be better to have them remain in the community instead of being shipped off to a county facility. If the offender is not a violent criminal and there is no concern about fleeing prosecution, electronic monitoring at home can be more appropriate to their criminal offense.
Simple to Implement
The process of going to jail can take more time and be more complicated than the alternatives. The state may have to wait for a space to clear up in California's already overcrowded prison system. Then the individual needs to go in for processing and be given everything they will need for their sentence. Home arrest generally involves simple electronic GPS and monitoring equipment that is easy to set up and simple to maintain.
Some critics cite the reduced severity as a disadvantage of house arrest. Home arrest is less severe, less restrictive, and less penalizing. However, restricting someone's movements and limiting where they can go, who they can see, and what they can do is still enough of a punishment for most people to want to avoid future criminal convictions.
Surveillance Over Rehabilitation
There are some claims that house arrest is more about surveillance than rehabilitation. Unfortunately, prison presents just as many risks for recidivism as it does the benefits of rehabilitation. With house arrest, probation can still be tailored to address any rehabilitation issues, including substance abuse, anger management, and mental health concerns. The individual may also have more rehabilitation options in a home-arrest setting compared to a state prison.
Is House Arrest Effective?
A study by the National Institute of Justice looked at how effective electronic monitoring was for sex offenders compared to regular parole. According to the study, those on electronic GPS monitoring committed newer crimes and had parole revoked less often than those without electronic monitoring. GPS monitoring decreased arrests by 12% and GPS-monitored individuals were more likely to comply with parole.
How Can I Get House Arrest Instead of Jail Time?
Not everyone is eligible for house arrest. In California, only certain people are considered for home detention with electronic monitoring. House arrest is generally limited to non-violent and low-risk offenders. House detention may be more likely if you are sentenced to county jail instead of state prison.
Talk to your criminal defense attorney about how you can request home monitoring instead of jail time. Your attorney can show the judge that you are a good candidate for house arrest and will comply with the terms of house detainment.
If you want to know what legal options you have to avoid jail time, talk to an experienced East Bay criminal defense attorney with experience handling cases just like yours. Find an East Bay trial attorney who has successfully defended members in the community so they can stay with their families and keep their jobs. If you are arrested in Oakland or Alameda County, call attorney Lynn Gorelick at 510-785-1444 or 925-847-3006.