How Does House Arrest ACTUALLY Work?
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How Does House Arrest ACTUALLY Work?

We here at The Infographics Show pride ourselves
on educating you every day on everything from science and technology to foreign affairs,
and even just everyday things that you’re probably wondering about but never thought
to ask. Today we’re going to be tackling another viewer
question, Infographics fan Courtney asked us, how does house arrest work? If you’ve seen our previous video on the differences
between prison and jail then you already know that the US penal code is a bit of a mess
of rules and regulations- not only are there different jails, but there’s different prisons
too, and no clear way of knowing where you might end up if you commit an offense. Today though we’ll be looking at what seems
to be the lightest of these punishment options, and what might land you a stint at home as
opposed to a long stay in jail or prison. So you’ve done the crime, and now it’s time
to do the time. Except your time will be done all at home,
but what kinds of crimes net you a home arrest, or home confinement as it is legally known? Well, the regulations for home confinement
vary state by state, but generally only those individuals who are considered low risk and
nonviolent offenders are eligible for house arrest. That means that if you got caught for murdering
and eating twenty four people, you have zero chance of house arrest, but if you were caught
for… we don’t know, defacing a public statue? Then you’d qualify for home confinement. But only if you were a low risk offender. What does that all mean exactly? In all honesty, it’s hard to be sure, because
nobody is really clear on exactly what types of crimes even qualify for house arrest in
the first place. Vandalizing a public statue could earn you
a hefty fine in most places, but it could also potentially land you under house arrest. The same goes for a DUI that ends nonviolently. In truth, earning an actual sentence of house
arrest over jail is largely up to the judge, and is the reason impartial judges with good…
well, judgment… are so important. Being sentenced to county jail is a mandatory
requirement for house arrest though, and again this is where things get rather discretional
on the judge’s part. Many misdemeanours often only involve fines
and/or community service and mandatory counseling, but sometimes they can land you a stint in
jail which would qualify for house arrest. If you are sentenced to even a single day
of jail, then you’re eligible to serve that day under house arrest instead. The same goes if you’re sentenced to twenty
years in jail- although to be fair, any offense with such a hefty sentence would automatically
be a felony, and that’s the real key here: the indictment must be for a misdemeanor,
not a felony. But wait, wasn’t famous scam artist Bernie
Madoff sentenced to house arrest initially? Well, yes, but also no. Bernie Madoff, whom if you don’t know was
convicted of operating the largest Ponzi scheme in the world and stealing almost $65 billion
dollars, was actually sentenced to house arrest along with a $20 million dollar bail in lieu
of sitting in jail for the duration of his trial. That is yet another way to earn yourself house
arrest, but even then only if you are considered a low flight risk and haven’t committed a
violent criminal act. In that case you can post bail and sit at
home for the duration of your trial rather than wait it out in jail- although it really
helps if you’re filthy rich of course. Another key qualifier for house arrest is
having your residence be in or very near to the county in which you were actually sentenced,
so if you got sentenced to three months of house arrest in Tucson, Arizona, you can’t
just jet off to your private mansion in Malibu with a private beach and choose to serve your
sentence there. This actually is pretty common sense policy,
because if we were rich enough and got sentenced to house arrest, we’d just immediately buy
a home on the shore of Hawaii somewhere- or buy an entire water park and declare it our
legal residence. Along with your residence being in or near
the county you were sentenced in, your home must also have a valid telephone through which
your parole officer and other court officials can contact you. From our research it seems that the rules
on this vary state by state, with some states accepting a cell phone and others mandating
that you have a physical landline available inside your residence. For the younger members of our audience, a
land line used to be a communications device similar to a cell phone, but was physically
connected to a global network of cables and allowed people to speak via voice communications
with other people. It had no games, no texting, and zero apps,
and if you used it at the same time that you tried to use the internet it would crash the
internet. Lastly, to qualify for house arrest you have
to be able to pay some or all of the cost of monitoring your compliance. While house arrest is far cheaper for the
government than keeping you locked up in jail, it still costs about $6,000 a year. This cost includes the price of the monitoring
unit which you must wear around your ankle and is GPS enabled, and the cost of that monitoring
itself. Once more states differ, with some states
having an up-front fee of around $14 a day, and other states adjusting the daily fee on
a sliding scale versus your income. In the end, it’s preferable to the government
if you can stay locked up at home instead of in a jail facility as it’s cheaper, and
so most courts are willing to work with you on the financial side. So now that we know how to get yourself house
arrest, how does it work exactly? Well, you’ve probably seen it portrayed in
the movies, and in most cases the depiction is completely wrong. House arrest sounds like, well you being arrested
to your house, but in reality many exceptions can be made for you to actually leave your
residence. For example, work exemptions are common for
people with jobs, and it makes more sense for the government to let you keep working
and be a productive member of society than not. The same goes for those attending school,
and exemptions based around your school schedule are also possible. There can even be exemptions for court-appointed
counseling events, and at times for religious events- again, the specific terms of your
house arrest are largely in the hands of your sentencing judge. Whatever the exceptions though, your schedule
is very closely monitored, and if you are not physically inside your residence within
the allowed time, then you are considered to be in violation of your house arrest and
can be sent to real jail. Thanks to GPS technology the court can be
aware of you even just sneaking to the end of the block for a quick chat with your friends,
or to pick up a soda from the corner store, and it has a zero tolerance policy for offences. That same GPS technology though also lets
the court see that you were stuck in traffic, and thanks to big data it can be easy to pull
up traffic patterns and realize that the reason you were an hour late getting home isn’t because
you were willfully violating your house arrest, but because of bad traffic. But what about feeding yourself and taking
care of other vital necessities? Well, once more the responsibility of physically
taking care of yourself falls on you, rather than the state, which alleviates a large amount
of the cost of the state holding you. This means that if you aren’t able to meet
your own basic daily needs, then you will not qualify for house arrest. It’s helpful if you have a job you can be
exempted to go work at, or have supportive friends or family nearby or living with you
that can cover the cost of your food for the duration of your sentence. This additional support also extends into
actually getting that food into the house in the first place, and is the reason why
so many people who live alone don’t qualify for house arrest. Assigning you someone to physically bring
you food and other necessities would completely destroy the one advantage of house arrest-
the fact that it saves the court money- and so therefore how you feed yourself and buy
new toilet paper is completely on you. The ability to not be able to get these things
for yourself or with the assistance of others will also disqualify you from house arrest. Luckily for you amazon delivers everything
you could possibly need straight to your door, and uber eats and doordash can bring you food
with the press of a button. While at home you can enjoy pretty much the
same freedoms you always did, and only in extremely rare and specific circumstances
will you be barred from the internet or receiving any visitors- although judges can enforce
as a condition of your sentence that you do not associate with specific individuals for
the duration of your house arrest. However this works largely on the honor system
and on investigations done by parole officers, and while you likely wouldn’t get caught,
it’s probably best not to push your luck and earn yourself a trip to the real big house. With all these advantages house arrest can
seem like a pretty attractive option, but it does come with one pretty glaring downside:
the fact that time served on house arrest will not qualify for good behavior and thus
earn a reduction in your sentence. Typically in jail you can earn a 1 for 1 day
reduction on your sentence for good behavior, meaning that if you are cooperative, polite,
and don’t cause any trouble, you can get one day knocked off your sentence for every one
day served with good behavior. Unfortunately house arrest is exempt from
this rule, so while it may be more comfortable to sit at home than in jail, you’ll be stuck
inside the house for much longer than if you were a model prisoner in county jail. Would you rather get sentenced to house arrest
or a real jail? Got another question only The Infographics
Show can answer? Email us or let us know in the comments! And if you enjoyed this video check out our
challenge episode, I didn’t leave home for 30 days to see what a real house arrest might
look like!


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