House arrest

House arrest

In justice and law, house arrest (also called home confinement, home detention, or electronic monitoring) is a measure by which a person is confined by the authorities to his or her residence. Travel is usually restricted, if allowed at all. House arrest is a lenient alternative to prison time or juvenile-detention time.

While house arrest can be applied to common criminal cases when prison does not seem an appropriate measure, the term is often applied to the use of house confinement as a measure of repression by authoritarian governments against political dissidents. In that case, typically, the person under house arrest does not have access to means of communication. If electronic communication is allowed, conversations will most likely be monitored. With certain units, the conversations of criminals can be directly monitored via the unit itself.



Home detention provides an alternative to imprisonment and aims to reduce re-offending while also coping with expanding prison numbers and rising costs.[1] It allows eligible offenders to retain or seek employment, maintain family relationships and responsibilities and attend rehabilitative programs that contribute towards addressing the causes of their offending.

The terms of house arrest can differ, but offenders are rarely confined to their residence 24 hours a day. Most programs allow employed offenders to continue to work, and only confine them during non-working hours. Offenders are also commonly allowed to leave their homes for specific, predetermined purposes; examples can include visits to the probation officer or police station, religious exceptions and medical appointments.[2][3] Many programs also allow the convict to leave the residence during regular, pre-approved times in order to carry out general household errands such as food shopping and laundry. Offenders may also have to respond to communications from a higher authority to verify that they are at home when required to be. Exceptions are often made to allow visitors to visit the offender.[4]

There are several types of house arrest, varying in severity as to the requirements of the court order. A curfew may restrict an offender to their house at certain times, usually during hours of darkness. Home confinement or detention would require an offender to remain at home for most hours, apart from the above mentioned exceptions. The most serious is home incarceration which would constrain an offender to their home constantly, aside from court-sanctioned treatment programmes and medical appointments.[1]

In some exceptional cases, it is possible for a person to be placed under house arrest without trial or legal representation, with restrictions on who they can associate with.[5] In some countries this has led to criticism, in which it is argued that this type of detention breaches the offender's human rights.[6] In countries with authoritarian systems of government, such measures may be politically motivated to stifle dissent.

Using technology for enforcement

In some countries, house arrest is often enforced through the use of technology products or services. One method is an electronic sensor locked to the offender's ankle (technically called an ankle monitor, sometimes referred to as a tether). If the subject and the sensor venture too far from the home, the violation is recorded and the proper authorities are summoned. To discourage tampering, many ankle monitors can now detect attempted removal. The monitoring service is often contracted out to private companies, which assign employees to electronically monitor many convicts simultaneously. If the sensors detect a violation, the monitoring service calls the convict's probation officer. The electronic surveillance together with frequent contact with their probation officer and checks by the security guards provides for a secure environment.

Another method of ensuring house arrest compliance is achieved through the use of automated calling services that require no human contact to check on the offender. Random calls are made to the residence and the respondent's answer is recorded and compared to the offender's voice pattern. Authorities are notified only if the call is not answered or if the recorded answer does not match the offender's voice pattern.

Electronic monitoring is considered a highly economical alternative to the cost of imprisoning offenders, especially considering that the convict is often required to pay for the monitoring as part of his or her sentence.


Judges have imposed sentences of home confinement, as an alternative to parole, as far back as the 1900s. But it did not become a widespread alternative to imprisonment until electronic monitoring devices made it inexpensive and easy to manage. The first-ever court sentence of house arrest with an electronic bracelet was in 1983.[7]

Notable instances




  • Aung San Suu Kyi, Winner of the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize and leader of her country's pro-democracy movement, has been under house arrest for most of the past twenty years. She was first placed under house arrest in July 1989 and, though freed six years later, she was again imprisoned in 2000. Two years later, Suu Kyi was released, but yet again jailed for the third time under house arrest after the infamous Depayin Massacre in 2003. She is released after her fourteenth year in confinement to her dilapidated home in Rangoon, in which she served another eighteen months imprisoned, convicted by a Burmese regional court in August 2009 after an American swam across Inya Lake to her house.[8] All of her periods under house arrest have been declared arbitrary by the United Nations. She was released on the 13th November 2010.
  • Ne Win Former military commander of Burma. He was deposed in 1988 and put under house arrest in 2001.


  • Pol Pot Former Premier of Cambodia. He was deposed when Vietnam attacked Cambodia in 1978.


People's Republic of China

The People's Republic of China continues to use soft detention a traditional form of house arrest used by the Chinese Empire.[9]

Republic of China



  • The last Hawaiian queen Liliuokalani had her prison sentence commuted to imprisonment in an upstairs bedroom of Iolani Palace by the Republic of Hawaii until she was released in 1896.


  • Sukarno, First President of Indonesia. He was deposed in 1967 by General Suharto (see: Transition to the New Order).



  • In Italy, the house arrest (in Italian arresti domiciliari) are a common practice of detention of suspects, alternative to detention in a correctional facility, and is also commonly practiced on those felons who are close to the end of their prison terms, or for those whose health condition do not allow their permanence in a correctional facility, except some particular cases of extremely dangerous persons. As for the article n°284 of the Italian Penal Procedure Code, the house arrests are imposed by a Judge, who orders the suspect to stay confined in his house, home, residence, private property, or any other place of cure or assistance where he/she may be housed at the moment. When necessary, the judge may also forbid any contact between the subject and any person other than those who cohabit with him/her or who assist him/her. If the subject is unable to take care of his/her life necessities or if he/she is in conditions of absolute poverty, the judge may authorize him/her to leave his/her home for the strict necessary time to take care of said needs or to exercise a job. The prosecuting authorities and law enforcement can check at any moment the factive respect of said orders by the subject, who's de facto considered in state of detention; violation of house arrest terms are immediately followed by transfer in a correctional facility. House arrests can not be applied to a subject that has been found guilty of escape within the previous five years.

New Zealand

  • At sentencing the judge can grant offenders who receive a short-term sentence (two years or less) leave to apply for home detention. This is called front-end home detention – i.e. it is applied for at the beginning of a sentence. If it is deferred by the judge, an offender has two weeks to apply, during which time they will be granted bail. Offenders serving long-term sentences can apply for back-end home detention five months before their Parole Eligibility Date, though, if granted, they won’t be released until three months before their PED.



Roman Catholic Church

  • Galileo Galilei was put under house arrest for his belief in Copernicus's theory of the sun in the middle of the universe and all the planets and stars revolving around it. He stayed under house arrest until 1642 when he died.


  • Chia Thye Poh, former leftist Member of Parliament, was arrested without charges and held under detention without trial in 1966. 22 years later, he was released and placed under house arrest in a guardhouse on the resort island of Sentosa and made to pay the rent, on the pretext that he was now a "free" man.

South Africa

Soviet Union

  • Former Premier Nikita Khrushchev was placed under house arrest for the seven years before his death after being deposed in 1964.


United Kingdom

United States

  • William Calley, U.S. Army officer responsible for the My Lai massacre, served 3½ years of house arrest after presidential clemency instead of his original sentence of life imprisonment.
  • Riddick Bowe, a former boxing champion, was sentenced to be under brief house arrest after being released from prison.
  • Lionel Tate was sentenced under one-year house arrest under the terms of the plea bargain offered in January 2004.
  • Martha Stewart was sentenced to five months of house arrest following her release from prison on March 4, 2005.
  • Debra Lafave, a former middle-school teacher, was sentenced to house arrest on November 22, 2005 for having sex with a 14-year-old pupil.
  • Paris Hilton, an heiress and socialite, was re-assigned to house arrest on June 7, 2007, but was ordered back to prison on June 8, 2007 to serve the remainder of her 45-day sentence for violating probation from a prior DUI conviction.
  • Dr. Dre, one of the founding fathers of gangsta rap and former member of the influential hip-hop group N.W.A, was sentenced to a house arrest after breaking the jaw of a record producer. He told VH1's Behind the Music, "The walls started to cave in on me."
  • T.I., an American rapper and co-CEO of Grand Hustle Records, was sentenced to house arrest after gun charges.
  • Michael Vick, Former Atlanta Falcons quarterback, was "OK'd" for transition to home confinement from his federal incarceration on February 26, 2009.
  • John G. Rowland, former governor of Connecticut, spent four months under house arrest after serving 10 months in federal prison for corruption while in office.
  • Bernard Madoff, after his Ponzi scheme was discovered, and $50 billion went missing.
  • Donte Stallworth, an NFL wide receiver, was sentenced on June 16, 2009 to two years house arrest for killing a pedestrian with his vehicle while driving intoxicated in Miami, Florida.
  • Adrian Lamo, served six months house arrest following his convictions for hacking into The New York Times and Microsoft.
  • Lil Boosie, A rapper was sentenced to house arrest while awaiting trial.
  • Lindsay Lohan in 2011, is serving house arrest for violating her probation.
  • Dominique Strauss-Kahn was held under house arrest on bail as an alternative to detention at Riker's Island before his trial for sexual assault. Upon the discovery of new evidence, Strauss-Kahn was released from house arrest on 1 July 2011. [14]

In popular culture

See also


  1. ^ a b Levinson, David. (2002). Encyclopedia of Crime and Punishment: Volumes I-IV. SAGE Publications. p. 859. ISBN 978-0761922582
  2. ^ Spohn, Cassia. (2008). How Do Judges Decide?: The Search for Fairness and Justice in Punishment. SAGE Publications Inc. p. 52. ISBN 978-1412961042
  3. ^ See for example [1]
  4. ^ Mele, Christopher. (2005). Civil penalties, social consequences. Routledge. p. 139. ISBN 978-0415948234
  5. ^ Jupp, James; Nieuwenhuysen, John; Dawson, Emma. (2007). Social Cohesion in Australia. Cambridge University Press. p. 183. ISBN 978-0521709439
  6. ^ Q&A: Terrorism laws. BBC News Online. July 3, 2006
  7. ^ Juliet Lapidos (January 28, 2009). "You're Grounded!How do you qualify for house arrest?". Slate Magazine. 
  8. ^ Marshall, Andrew (2009-08-11). "Burma Court Finds Aung San Suu Kyi Guilty". TIME.,8599,1915693,00.html. Retrieved 2010-11-15. 
  9. ^ Tatlow, Didi Kirsten (March 9, 2011). "Out of Jail in China, but Not Free". The New York Times. 
  10. ^ "Iran releases dissident cleric". BBC News. 30 January 2003. Retrieved 2007-06-08. 
  11. ^ "Dissident Ayatollah Demands Iran's Rulers Be Elected". Associated Press. FOX News. 2003-09-17.,2933,97567,00.html. Retrieved 2007-06-08. 
  12. ^ Background note: Nigeria. U.S. Department of State
  13. ^ Anti-terrorism law row rumbles on. BBC News Online. March 12, 2005
  14. ^ "Ex-IMF head Dominique Strauss-Kahn freed without bail". BBC News. 1 July 2011. Retrieved 1 July 2011. 

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