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Incarceration alternatives are not a 'get out of jail free' pass

No one wants to be sentenced to jail or prison for a criminal offense. In fact, people will often do whatever they can to avoid being put behind bars if they are facing felony or misdemeanor charges. In some cases, people will agree to incarceration alternatives thinking that they will be able to avoid feeling like a prisoner.

Without a legal representative to explain the facts of these alternatives, people can make some critical errors in making decisions about their future. For example, people may assume sentences including house arrest or probation will be, at worst, boring and inconvenient. However, it is important to understand that incarceration alternatives are not without consequences.

Incarceration alternatives have increased significantly in recent years, thanks to overcrowded prisons and technological advancements. They are generally offered or ordered in place of time behind bars, but they can still make a person feel trapped. 

House arrest and probation are two common incarceration alternatives that many people may have misconceptions about. 

Anyone who is required to wear an electronic monitor will be confined to his or her home with few if any permissions to leave the premises. A person's home becomes a jail. It can significantly strain personal relationships, employment opportunities as well as mental and physical health. People can often be required to pay a daily fee for the device.

Probation can be much more favorable than extended jail sentences. However, the rules of probation are very strict and could even include drug testing requirements. A violation of probation -- or even a suspected violation -- can result in severe penalties and a return to jail. Additionally, offenders typically need to pay into this system as well.

While these alternatives may be significantly more desirable than jail sentences, they are still serious penalties that should not be considered lightly. In order to avoid or minimize these and other types of serious penalties, it can be crucial for people in Illinois to work with an attorney before entering a plea or agreeing to any offer from prosecutors. With legal support, a person can understand what is at stake, what is being offered and what may be done to try and avoid conviction altogether.

Source: MotherJones, "The Quiet Horrors of House Arrest, Electronic Monitoring, and Other Alternative Forms of Incarceration," Maya Schenwar, Jan. 22, 2015

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Darryl A. Goldberg
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