There are many alternatives to jail including fines, probation and community service. Among these is house arrest in which you are be kept as a prisoner in your own home instead of spending your days in jail. House arrest is usually given to first-time, non-violent offenders. It is cheaper for the state to grant than incarceration in a jail or prison.
There are no specific crimes that automatically lead to a house arrest, but it's generally seen as a good jail alternative for low-risk, non-violent offenders.
House Arrest Explained
As the name implies, house arrest involves being confined to your own home in jail-like conditions rather than going to prison. It always works with some kind of monitoring device such as an ankle bracelet to monitor the prisoner's movements, and even detect the level of alcohol in a prisoner's bloodstream. House arrest is economical: monitoring someone at home costs around $6,000 per year compared to costs over $20,000 per year to keep someone in prison. As such, house arrest is seen a low-cost way to keep non-violent and low-risk offenders from committing another crime.
House Arrest as a Sentence
On the scale of sentencing, house arrest sits somewhere in the middle – more lenient than a prison sentence but harsher than a fine or probation. As such, a judge may consider a sentence of house arrest where jail time would be appropriate, but the prisoner is deemed too sick or vulnerable to survive the prison environment. Non-violent offenders may also be sentenced to house arrest when they've got a steady job and a clean rap sheet. Repeat and violent offenders are probably not going to get away with home confinement.
House Arrest as a Bail Condition
A judge may also impose house arrest as a bail condition in lieu of the defendant spending time in jail awaiting trial. Prior to sentencing, the court is primarily concerned with the flight risk – given the suspect's criminal history and family situation, is he likely to run? If the answer to that question is "yes," then a judge may order that the defendant stay at home on a monitoring device until the trial date.
How to Get House Arrest
There are no specific house arrest crimes that automatically get a jail alternative: you have to ask for it. Generally, those who are considered for home confinement include:
- First offenders
- Non-violent offenders
- A juvenile offender who lives with her parents
- Those who have a steady employment history
- Sick and vulnerable offenders
In many cases, a judge will sentence a qualifying offender to house arrest when jail is too "hard" but parole is too "soft" a punishment. Be aware that you're expected to contribute to the cost of your own house arrest so far as you are able. This typically comprises the cost of the ankle bracelet, a setup cost of around $200 and a daily use fee of about $5 to $15.
Types of Home Confinement
There are many types of house arrest, and it's actually quite unusual for an offender to stay at home 24 hours a day. Some get to go to work or school and attend pre-approved activities like counseling or rehabilitation programs. Most are on some sort of curfew whereby they have to be at home during certain hours and are not permitted to go out after dark. In this respect, house arrest allows offenders to serve their time while earning an income, accessing the proper rehabilitation, and maintaining positive community relationships which would not be available in a prison or juvenile detention facility.