House arrest

For other uses, see House arrest (disambiguation).
Not to be confused with 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 a certain residence. Travel is usually restricted, if allowed at all. House arrest is an alternative to prison time or juvenile-detention time.

While house arrest can be applied to 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 any means of communication. If electronic communication is allowed, conversations will most likely be monitored. With some electronic monitoring units, the conversations of prisoners can be directly monitored via the unit itself.


Judges have imposed sentences of home confinement, as an alternative to parole, as far back as the 1900s. Galileo was confined to his villa following his infamous trial in the 1600s. 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.[1]


Home detention provides an alternative to imprisonment and aims to reduce re-offending while also coping with expanding prison numbers and rising costs.[2] 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.[3][4] 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.[5]

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.[2]

In some exceptional cases, it is possible for a person to be placed under house arrest without trial or legal representation, with restrictions on with whom they can associate.[6] In some countries this has led to criticism, in which it is argued that this type of detention breaches the offender's human rights.[7] 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). The electronic sensor transmits a GPS signal to a base handset. The base handset is connected to police or a monitoring service.

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.

Notable instances







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






Notable cases:

New Zealand



Roman Catholic Church


South Africa

Soviet Union


United Kingdom

United States


In popular culture

See also

Look up house arrest in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.


  1. Juliet Lapidos (January 28, 2009). "You're Grounded!How do you qualify for house arrest?". Slate Magazine.
  2. 1 2 Levinson, David. (2002). Encyclopedia of Crime and Punishment: Volumes I-IV. SAGE Publications. p. 859. ISBN 978-0-7619-2258-2
  3. Spohn, Cassia. (2008). How Do Judges Decide?: The Search for Fairness and Justice in Punishment. SAGE Publications Inc. p. 52. ISBN 978-1-4129-6104-2
  4. Karen Freifeld, Chris Dolmetsch and Don Jeffrey (20 May 2011). "Strauss-Kahn May Have Spent Last Night in Jail After Bail".
  5. Mele, Christopher. (2005). Civil penalties, social consequences. Routledge. p. 139. ISBN 978-0-415-94823-4
  6. Jupp, James; Nieuwenhuysen, John; Dawson, Emma. (2007). Social Cohesion in Australia. Cambridge University Press. p. 183. ISBN 978-0-521-70943-9
  7. Q&A: Terrorism laws. BBC News Online. July 3, 2006
  8. Marshall, Andrew (2009-08-11). "Burma Court Finds Aung San Suu Kyi Guilty". TIME. 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. 2003-01-30. Retrieved 2007-06-08.
  11. "Dissident Ayatollah Demands Iran's Rulers Be Elected". FOX News. Associated Press. 2003-09-17. Retrieved 2007-06-08.
  12. "AC/DC's Phil Rudd Sentenced to House Detention for Eight Months". Us Weekly.
  13. Background note: Nigeria. U.S. Department of State
  14. Anti-terrorism law row rumbles on. BBC News Online. March 12, 2005
  15. "Rodney King Gets House Arrest for Reckless Driving". NBC News. Retrieved 6 May 2014.
  16. "Ex-IMF head Dominique Strauss-Kahn freed without bail". BBC News. 1 July 2011. Retrieved 1 July 2011.
This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 12/1/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.