Alternative Sanctions


In debates about criminal justice, we often hear alternative sanctions touted as a sensible and cost-effect alternative to incarceration. Alternative sanctions include probation, electronic monitoring and house arrest, among other practices.

While there is a place for alternative sanctions, there is also a serious risk from having unjustified faith in them. Here are some illustrations.

Associated Press, Monday December 30, 2002

People who were supposed to be under house arrest committed more than 200 slayings and hundreds of other serious crimes during the past 20 years in Florida, a newspaper reported Sunday.

The house arrest program has allowed more than 215,000 people to serve time at home since 1983 but has failed more than half the time, the Orlando Sentinel reported after reviewing hundreds of documents on Florida's program, the largest in the country.

Sixty percent of offenders have their at-home incarceration revoked because they break the program's rules or break the law.

But perhaps the most startling finding is that at least 234 people were killed by criminals who were supposed to be under house arrest over the two-decade span of the program. Criminals violating house arrest committed 538 sexual crimes during the same period.

Nearly 5,000 criminals, including 14 killers, fled while on house arrest and have never been recaptured, records cited by the Sentinel showed.

London Daily Telegraph, April 27, 2003

More than 400 criminals who have been electronically tagged and release from jail early have gone on the run, The Telegraph can reveal.

New figures from the Home Office show that 416 criminals who were supposedly under electronic surveillance, including 63 violent offenders, were "unlawfully at large" at the end of last year.

The figures show that 1,638 crimes have been committed by prisoners who would have otherwise been in jail since the tagging scheme began in 1999. The crime spree includes 229 violent offences, six sex crimes and more than 500 cases of theft or fraud.

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