Over the years technology has greatly expanded the ability of government to watch the movements and control individuals. During this time I have encountered several people that have run afoul of the law in some way or other the way the legal system deals with people is also changing. While many of us see house arrest as a great option to throwing minor offenders into a prison system filled with hardcore criminals it does have shades of totalitarianism. A recent article on this site explored the difficulty society is having in getting people to obey its rules and laws. Without a doubt, the failure to enforce laws to deter minor acts of stealing and such impacts our culture over time. Sadly, this is not a problem just in America but across the world. as the cost of enforcement has soared and the system struggles to dole out justice.
The focus of this article is to explore how sophisticated the state has become and its ability to turn your home into an Orwellian prison. Crumbling justice systems have forced courts to prioritize crimes by seriousness and explore new ways of getting people to behave. This translates into petty criminals being allowed to walk free for crimes such as shoplifting, minor assault, vandalism, fraud, and DUIs. A rapidly growing alternative to throwing a person convicted of a crime in jail is some form of house arrest. This is a term most of us heard but do not understand the full scope of what it may encompass.
House arrest typically isn’t a judge’s first choice for punishment but it is becoming more common as the cost of incarceration rises. This is considered a privilege normally requested by the defendant’s attorney, who would then have to establish to the court’s satisfaction that it’s a good idea and why. Sometimes, house arrest is issued as a condition of bail. Bernie Madoff, charged with defrauding investors of billions of dollars, was released on $10 million bail and house arrest pending his trial. House arrest rules and regulations tend to vary widely from state to state and county to county but one common factor is the Orwellian nature of near-total control.
Make no mistake, the abilities and options available to the government to enforce turning your home into a jail can boggle the mind. House arrest is only one of the alternatives to jail including a suspended sentence, probation, fines, and community service.Most offenders eligible for house arrest are confined to their home instead of spending time in jail. Depending on their situation and the ruling of the court a person on house arrest is usually electronically monitored through an ankle monitor with a GPS tracking system. It can’t be removed and is electronically connected to local police headquarters giving off signals when it goes out of its allowed area. The word arrest is somewhat misleading in that it is really house sentencing and many variations of it exist.
One thing is clear when looking into this issue and that is Orwellian control is almost complete. The extent of control depends on the sophistication of the technology employed. Some electronic transmission systems worn in addition to the ankle monitor are equipped with breathalyzers which the prisoners are required to breathe into.periodically. The data is transmitted back to the agency. Some monitors measure alcohol concentration in the blood 24/7. Also, court representatives can do surprise visits for random testing. Drug and alcohol use is not permitted during house arrest, even if the underlying crime did not involve substance abuse. The frequency of such testing is generally increased when issues of abuse do exist.
Not only can the electronic monitoring prove a person’s location within his residence but it can tell the agency exactly where the convict is and whether he’s done anything to the ankle monitor. Some of these systems are even equipped with photographic capabilities so if the agency calls the convict, the system will snap a picture of him answering the telephone.GPS can also be included which allows the agency to track the convict and locate him on a map if the person is granted permission to leave their residence. People under house arrest are sometimes permitted to leave home to take care of certain family responsibilities or to attend religious services.
One disadvantage to house arrest for the offender is the person won’t be able to take advantage of good time credits. This is the incentive system that allows them to serve less of a jail sentence as a reward for good behavior. Below are a few of the options or things people on house arrest face. Many people think that house arrest is like being in jail and they will have to be there all day, every day. This is not always the case. Depending on your circumstances, the severity of the crime, and a person’s criminal record, the judge may allow “breaks” from house arrest. This means a person may be able to go to work, school, doctors appointments, counseling sessions, community service, and other court-approved activities. The court may also order a curfew requiring you return directly from the allowed activity.
Another twist is a person under house arrest should expect to pay some of the costs.House arrest is cheaper for the court system than putting you in jail. Incarcerating a person in prison can cost over $20,000 a year. Confining a person at home can be as cheap as $6,000 a year. Most of the time, you will be required to pay a weekly or monthly amount towards the cost of an ankle monitor, or electronic monitoring transmitter 24/7. Other costs are also involved. The price of house arrest varies from probation department to probation department. Some have a set price for everybody. Some determine the price on a sliding scale based on an offenders ability to pay.
Just like parole, if an offender violates any condition of house arrest they can be immediately arrested and sent to jail to serve out their sentence in captivity. Leaving the house, if allowed, is restricted for a person on house arrest. Some offenders are allowed to be employed, this can go either way with some states and courts allowing it while others do not. Some allow regular visits such as the doctor’s office but these must be scheduled and approved in advance. Other times they may be permitted to attend counseling in cases where drug or alcohol abuse are involved or to perform community service as part of their sentences. Exceptions are also made in order to attend court-mandated appearances or activities such as meeting with a probation or parole officer.
Programs might also allow for some offenders to do laundry, attend religious services and go food shopping. Offenders generally have a curfew and whenever they are allowed to leave their home the person is required to report in upon return. People under house arrest also have access to television and the Internet but in many cases, they do not have access to a telephone and if they do the conversations are monitored. Visits from close family members or friends may be permitted, but this depends on the convicted individual’s specific situation and factors like his state’s laws.
The court has the discretion to set restrictions on visitors, meaning a friend or loved might need to get permission from the convicted individual’s assigned officer. Minors on house arrest are more or less subject to the same rules as adults but generally allowed to go to school and sometimes allowed to leave home when they’re in the company of a parent or legal guardian. Some states require that the parent check with the probation officer first, and if the child breaks the rules they must report it to the authorities. Typically minors can’t have friends stop by to visit but are sometimes allowed to engage in phone communications with an approved list of people.
This is a glimpse of government’s ability to totally control our lives. This picture of your home as a prison may eventually be extended to include your city or country if the government continues to expand its reach. Signs of this happening can now be seen in China where a surge in facial recognition and social point system has begun to reshape society.It is interesting how few people have commented on the way passport requirements and higher cost have reduced the ability of many people to travel. If this continues there may come the day when only the elite and wealthy are allowed to cross borders.