Alternatives to Jail and Prison

The American criminal justice system is diverse enough to accommodate alternatives to jail and prison. An alternative to jail and prison is any kind of punishment, other than imprisonment, given to the perpetrator of a crime. As the average American might be aware, not every crime will result in jail time. For instance, when caught speeding, you will not necessarily go to jail. Therefore, our legal system does have room for imprisonment alternative punishments.

The law recognizes that harsh and stringent penalties are very often not the best way to deal with crime. Since our criminal justice system is focused on rehabilitating perpetrators as opposed to simply punishing them, there are alternatives to imprisonment recognized by the law. If an individual is convicted of a crime, he can be sentenced to jail; however, this approach does not always work when it comes to reducing future crime or keeping the community safe. And that is where alternatives to imprisonment come in. Such alternatives are known by various names, like alternative sanctions, deferred adjudication, etc. No matter the name, the goal of any such alternative is the same, to not imprison the defendant but to provide him with counseling, education, or treatment so he can be rehabilitated.

What are the alternatives to imprisonment?

Such alternatives can consist of treatment programs, diversion programs, or deferred prosecution. Treatment/Diversion programs seek to divert the defendant away from the criminal justice system by “treating” the defendant to the point where he is rehabilitated to become a functioning and productive member of society. Generally speaking, non-violent drug or alcohol offenses for first-time offenders may be eligible for such programs. Therefore, if you have committed such a crime, then your lawyer should make a case for an alternative to imprisonment.

The judge and the prosecutor on the case will generally make the determination on whether a defendant is eligible to participate in a Treatment/Diversion program. If a defendant is deemed to be eligible, then the judge will explain the program to the defendant, as well as go over the requirements for completing the program and the consequences if the defendant fails to complete the program. Ultimately, the decision of whether to participate in the program rests on the defendant. If the defendant decides to participate in the program, the court may condition such participation on the defendant pleading guilty to the crime and then commencing the program. Usually, if the defendant then successfully completes the program, the court will simply dismiss the case, thereby preventing the formation of a criminal record for the defendant. Failure to complete the program, however, could result in the defendant facing jail time.

Another alternative recognized by Missouri law is that of home arrest or confinement, where the defendant is confined to his home instead of prison. Community Service is another alternative recognized by Missouri, wherein the defendants are assigned to non-profit or tax-supported agencies to perform work for the public’s needs. This work is performed as an alternative to imprisonment and has thus far resulted in nearly $3 million in free labor and services for the state of Missouri. Some of these programs might not be complete alternatives to imprisonment but are enacted concurrently with serving prison time. One example of such a program is the restorative justice program. As part of the restorative justice program, for instance, defendants might be able to volunteer at a farm to give back to the community whom they have harmed through their actions. Another form of a restorative justice program could be defendants taking classes where they learn about the impact of their actions on victims and the community at large.

Contact experienced attorneys if you have any questions

If you have any questions about the criminal justice system or are facing your own criminal defense case, then reach out to the attorneys of Marler Law Partners today. Depending on your situation and the facts of your case, a punishment alternative to imprisonment might be available to you. Do not hesitate and contact us today for a free consultation.