Prison reform is in the forefront as we see celebrity Kim Kardashian and filmmaker Ava Duvernay speaking out about unfair sentencing and mass incarceration. In the United States, prisons are big business. An estimated 2.2 million adults are incarcerated in jails and prisons across the country.
The rates of juvenile incarceration are not as bad but continue to climb each year. This adds to the U. S. having the highest incarceration rates in the world. Texas incarcerates people at one of the highest rates in the U.S.
One of the key talking points for prison reform is developing alternatives to prison. High numbers of people jailed are for non-violent offenses. Giving them other opportunities to atone for their crimes offers them a second chance.
These options also help ease the burden on jails and prisons that are already overpopulated.
Do you have pending charges are need a better understanding of your options? Continue reading for six possible alternatives to jail sentencing.
Individuals that commit offenses that involve theft or property damage can pay restitution to their victims. The goal is to make the person whole following the infraction. The defendants will also be required to pay all court costs.
Criminal restitution in lieu of jail time isn’t always limited to actual property. It can also be awarded for emotional damages and medical expenses as well as property losses. However, victims are not entitled to a double recovery, that is, restitution cannot exceed actual expenses for property damage, mental health treatment, or medical bills. In Texas, the Crime Victims’ Fund often helps with these expenses. Texas criminal defense attorneys know to look for such payouts or insurance payments to reduce restitution.
Restitution can also be awarded to the victim of a crime in cases where the defendant has also received jail time. Where innovative sentencing comes into play is once the restitution is paid in accordance with the court order, the jail time can be dismissed.
Drug addicts often commit crimes to support their drug habit. These crimes include petty theft, prostitution, trespassing, and drug buys. Because addicts are victims of their own addiction it serves no one to have them incarcerated. Similarly, people with mental health or neurological issues, such as Traumatic Brain Injury or PTSD, will benefit more from treatment than incarceration.
Offenses committed while a person is under the influence of alcohol are another opportunity for treatment instead of jail time.
The courts recognize that these individuals are dealing with issues that impair their judgment. Therefore, judges and prosecutors are more inclined to offer these offenders the option of going into a drug and alcohol or mental health treatment program. There, individuals can deal with their personal challenges, which if successful, will deter the defendant from re-offending.
Offenders that do not successfully complete the program and other requirements will still face prison time.
Texas has specialty treatment courts in most counties. In Bexar County, there are treatment courts for veterans, DWI offenders, drug treatment, and mental case cases. San Antonio arrestees should talk to their criminal lawyer to determine eligibility for these programs.
When prisons or jails in Texas are overcrowded, house arrest becomes a viable alternative to incarceration. This form of innovative sentencing saves the government substantially when you consider the cost-savings between monitoring someone at home vs. housing them in a prison.
With house arrest, the person has to wear an ankle monitor that follows their movement and location. House arrest doesn’t always mean the person sits in their home the entire length of the sentence. They can go to work, counseling, and get permission for other important activities.
If the ankle monitor is removed it sends a signal and law enforcement is notified immediately. The same can happen if the person misses their curfew.
The penalties for not adhering to the conditions of house arrest can range from fines, an extended sentence, or jail time. A person on house arrest awaiting trial can also have their bond revoked or forfeited for infractions.
Work release is alternative sentencing that most often shortens a persons time in jail. The individual can perform work release while still being housed in a prison complex, or they can be transferred to a halfway house.
The objective is to help the inmate transition back into society by allowing him to work a fulltime job. Strict curfews are enforced and if the person does not adhere to the rules the privilege is revoked and they must serve the remainder of their sentence behind bars.
One reason so many people re-offend is due to lack of employment opportunities after leaving prison. The work release job can often lead to full-time employment after their sentence is complete.
This option is also beneficial to the inmate because working offsite earns them substantially higher wages than jobs they are assigned while in jail.
To be given this opportunity the inmate must have exhibited exemplary behavior while serving their sentence.
Community service is a sentence offered for a lot of misdemeanor crimes but may be part of a felony sentence in Texas. It not only benefits the defendant but also the community. Most often performed with a non-profit organization, it can also include working with law enforcement or the city.
The service performed can range from feeding the homeless to picking up trash off city streets and highways. Sentences include a set amount of hours that the person must volunteer. They will also have a set amount of time to perform the service.
Completion of Community service can also lead to charges being dropped or expunged from your record.
If you’re lucky you’ll get away will only having to pay a fine and court costs. For some, this may create a financial hardship, but it is the easiest way to avoid jail time.
Court costs include a list of fees that can be imposed by the courts. Some of them are state-mandated. For example, in Texas, DWI offenders are assessed mandatory fines.
Fines are the actual penalty for the crime you committed. Fines are usually at the discretion of the judge with recommendations from the persecution. Guidelines vary from state to state. In Texas, fines may be avoided, reduced, or probated for financial hardship.
It’s important to discuss alternatives to prison with your defense attorney. The attorney will be able to review your records and determine what you will face if found guilty.
Leniency will be based on whether or not you have any prior convictions.
If you’ve been arrested and need a Texas criminal defense attorney, we’re here to help. Contact us today for a consultation by phone or in our San Antonio office.