Home Confinement Can Be an Alternative to Prison
Today’s jails and prisons are overcrowded and expensive. To cope, court systems increasingly offer home confinement, or house arrest, as an alternative to traditional incarceration. Home confinement became much more common after the advent of the electronic monitoring bracelet in 1983.
In addition, the home confinement alternative allows eligible offenders to retain or seek employment, maintain family relationships and responsibilities, and attend appropriate rehabilitation programs.
Who Is Eligible for Home Confinement?
Usually, the option of home confinement is granted to offenders convicted of non-violent misdemeanors, and to juveniles. Judges may impose home confinement prior to trial (as a condition of bail) or as a sentence. It helps to have a clean rap sheet, a steady employment history and no gang affiliation. You or your lawyer must proactively ask the court to consider this option.
Certain classes of incarcerated offenders are also subject to closely supervised home confinement for a certain period of time as a condition of their release from jail or prison. These include violent offenders and those convicted of sexual crimes.
A person in home confinement must pay a fee, which is usually a percentage of the person’s income. Other costs include regular probation fees, court costs, fines or any required restitution payments.
What Is an Electronic Monitoring Bracelet?
Home confinement involves placement of an electronic monitoring bracelet around the ankle of the offender, plus some additional equipment in the home to process the signal. The bracelet is worn next to the skin and fits under the clothes. It sends a signal to the agency monitoring an offender’s parole or probation. If the signal is interrupted for any reason, it sends an alert.
There are three types of monitoring bracelets. One uses radio-frequency technology and another uses Global Positioning System technology to keep track of an offender’s location and movements. A third has the additional ability to determine if an offender is breaking the terms of parole or probation by drinking alcohol.
What Are the Rules of Home Confinement?
The rules of home confinement are fairly consistent from state to state, with some slight variations.
In rare cases, offenders are required to stay home 24 hours a day. More often, they are granted time away from home to work or participate in pre-approved activities, like school, training programs, doctor’s appointments or court appointments. Some offenders are subject to “curfew,” where they must be home during evening hours but have considerable freedom during the day.
Visitors and access to telephones and other electronic devices might be limited and monitored.
What Happens When the Rules Are Broken?
An offender on home confinement is subject to all the terms of probation or parole. An alert from the monitoring system triggers a phone call from an officer and usually a home visit. Intentional tampering with or removal of the device, or breaking the terms, is a violation and can result in the issuance of an arrest warrant and a return to traditional incarceration, with additional penalties.