Traditionally, punishment for committing a crime is having to pay a fine or spend time in jail or prison. However, judges also have the option of using other forms of “alternative” sentencing, especially through early intervention programs. These include:
- Work-release or intermittent sentence
- House arrest or community corrections programs, which usually involve electronic monitoring
- Community service as restorative justice, which is frequently a part of supervised probation and court supervision sentences
These options offer several advantages over traditional incarceration.
- Work release – These programs generally allow the inmate to work in the community during the day, returning to the prison during non-working hours. This allows the inmate to begin to save money for when they are released from prison. Also, these programs help the inmate become re-integrated into the community, so that once they are completely released, they are better situated to succeed.
- House arrest and community service – These options offer several advantages to traditional criminal sentences or incarceration. They cost taxpayers less than it would to house an inmate in jail or prison. In fact, by one estimate, it is 7 times more expensive to incarcerate a drug offender than to put that offender through a treatment program. More importantly, these programs keep families together, and allow the offender to continue to help provide for his or her family while repaying their debt to society.
- Juvenile offenders may learn important lessons and gain invaluable skills – Minors who are caught during the commission of their first crimes are given a chance to rehabilitate in the hopes that the alternative sentencing will allow the minors to see why their crimes were harmful to their victims. On a few occasions, that juvenile defendant may find an employment opportunity or even a career path.
Alternative sentencing is generally not available for violent criminals, those facing multiple offenses, or those who are habitual offenders. While rising in popularity, many drug offenders are limited in the types of alternative sentences they may receive.
Alternative sentences are just that: an alternative to traditional punishments. Alternative sentencing is not mandatory for the defendants, but failure to serve an alternative sentence will result in traditional punishments, such as fines, jail or prison time.
If you are facing prosecution for a crime, you should consult with a criminal attorney to safeguard your freedom. If you have questions about eligibility for alternative sentencing, an experienced attorney will be able to answer your questions.