Home Confinement Guide: What It Is and How It Works
It costs a lot of money to keep people in jail, and with prison populations soaring over the past 20 years cities, counties, and states have been exploring ways to reduce the number of people in their jails without unleashing chaos on the streets. Some tried to kick the bail bonding company to the curb, only to see spikes in crime and recidivism. Others have embraced the idea of home confinement. Home confinement may be used as an alternative type of sentence (particularly for non-violent offenders) to reduce prison populations, or it may be imposed as a condition of bail. In which case it’s referred to as “pre-trial home confinement”.
How Home Confinement Works
Home confinement is a flexible concept. That is, there is no one-size-fits-all type of home confinement. The program can be used for those who have been convicted of a crime or for those awaiting trial. In either case, the conditions of confinement are tailored to fit the needs of the defendant and the compelling interests of the state.
Home Confinement as a Type of Sentence
If someone is convicted of a crime but they are the only one providing care for a sick or elderly relative they may be granted home confinement rather than prison on the condition they only go out to buy food or medicine or to take their loved one to the doctor, and they never go out after dark.
In another case, a person may be the only breadwinner in a family so the state will opt for home confinement. In a case like that, they would be allowed to go to work as long as they returned directly home afterward and stayed there until it was time to go to work again.
Home Confinement as a Condition of Bail
As for pre-trial home confinement, it is sometimes granted to those who would otherwise not be good candidates for bail. Rather than keeping them in jail (which would be expensive for the county or state), the person will arrange bail with the bonding company with home confinement as a condition. As a result, their experience will be quite different from that of most people out on bail.
When most people post bail they are free to resume their life while awaiting trial. They may be forbidden from drinking or going near another person but otherwise, they’re free to go about their life. When pre-trial home confinement is added as a bail condition the person will spend most of their time unable to leave their home except for specific reasons such as those we discussed above.
The Mechanics of Home Confinement
Whether home confinement is being used as an alternative form of sentencing or as a condition of affordable bail bonds the individual in question will be required to wear some type of electronic device that can be used to track their movements. These devices typically take the form of either an ankle or wrist bracelet with a battery-powered GPS system that enables the court to know where the person is at all times.
In addition, a person who has been sentenced to home confinement must check in regularly with the court officer appointed in their case. They may also be required to produce proof that they have been going to work, or that they have been participating in activities they claim to have participated in as opposed to just wandering around outside the home for no reason. Should a person be unable to provide evidence that they have been adhering to the conditions of their home confinement they may be returned to jail.
The same goes for someone whose pre-trial home confinement is a condition of bail. They will also need to wear a monitoring device and be able to verify where they went when they left the house. They may also need to check in with their bail bond agent on a regular basis. Should they fail to meet all the conditions of their release their bail may be revoked and they will likely be returned to jail to await trial.
Pros and Cons of Home Confinement
Like everything else, there are pros and cons associated with home confinement. Let’s take a look at them now.
Home Confinement Pros
- The ability to maintain steady employment: People convicted of crimes are often the family breadwinner. Incarcerating them could plunge the family into an economic crisis. If their crime was not a heinous one it makes sense to sentence them to home confinement and allow them to go to work. The same is true for someone whose pre-trial home confinement is a condition of bail. Allowing them out to work will benefit their family and by extension, society as a whole.
- The ability to care for a family member: People who have been accused or convicted of a crime are sometimes the only ones able to provide care for an elderly or ailing family member. What will happen to that person if their caregiver is incarcerated? Unless the person has been accused or convicted of a terrible crime releasing them to home confinement so they can continue providing care makes sense for everyone.
- Increased safety: No one likes to talk about it but jails and prisons are dangerous places. By allowing non-violent offenders to stay at home while awaiting trial or by using home confinement as a sentencing option, the individual will not be subjected to the type of physical confrontations that are commonplace in many jails.
- Reduced cost for the state or county: Housing, feeding, and providing healthcare for incarcerated individuals costs money. A lot of money. Locking up non-violent offenders in Broomfield County for extended periods of time doesn’t make a lot of financial sense if there is a more cost-effective option available. Home confinement is a cost-effective option.
Home Confinement Cons
- It’s not free: Counties love home confinement because A) they don’t have to pay to incarcerate the person in question and B) they don’t have to pay for any monitoring device. That cost is borne by the person wearing the device and can be as high as $50 a day. There is also a setup fee that could be as high as $200 or $300.
- Pre-trial home confinement is not the same as standard bail: We mentioned this earlier but it bears repeating. Most people out on bail are able to resume their normal life with only a few restrictions like no drugs and no getting drunk etc. When pre-trial home confinement is part of the bail arrangement the accused will have no choice but to spend most of their time at home, wearing a monitoring device.
- Not everyone is eligible: Home confinement as a sentence, or pre-trial home confinement as a condition of bail, is not available to everyone. In most cases, these options are only available to non-violent offenders who are considered a low-flight risk. In addition, the person’s residence must typically be in the same county where they were sentenced or where their trial will be.
- Loss of privacy: Some monitoring devices not only record where a person goes they also record all voice communications. That means conversations they have at the dinner table, phone conversations, conversations with their kids, and all other verbal communications.
The Bottom Line
Home confinement is an idea that has been gaining a lot of steam as cities, counties, and states look for ways to reduce costs associated with jail and prison populations. There are definite advantages and disadvantages to both home confinement and pre-trial home confinement that need to be weighed by both the state and the defendant in consultation with their attorney.
If you find yourself in need of 24-hour bail bonds in Broomfield or nearby cities, call the team at Urban Bail Bonds.