Alternatives to Jail and Prison

Posted On April 1, 2023 Criminal Defense,Felonies Written by John Allen Phebus

Getting arrested in Scottsdale can be a frightening and confusing experience, especially if you are facing serious charges that could potentially lead to a jail or prison sentence. In Arizona, a sentence including incarceration can sometimes be avoided with an alternative. Alternatives exist to reform a defendant rather than being purely punitive and may be available in certain cases. The best way to protect your rights is by hiring an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible after your arrest to help you seek an alternative sentence.

What Is an Alternative Sentence?

As the country’s population of people in detainment continues to grow, alternatives to incarceration are becoming more common. Alternatives to jail and prison in Arizona are designed to reduce recidivism, or the tendency of someone who has been convicted of a crime to commit another offense in the future. For this reason, they are often focused more on rehabilitation and reformation than punishment alone.


One possible alternative to jail may be probation, where a court orders a period of supervision outside of jail rather than inside a cell. While on probation, an individual will have to follow strict rules and guidelines as set by the court. This may include not traveling out of the state, abstaining from the use of drugs and alcohol, attending counseling, and maintaining employment or going to school.

Probation can be supervised or unsupervised, where supervised means the individual must check in periodically with a probation officer to prove that he or she is adhering to the conditions of probation. If the individual violates the terms of the probation agreement, he or she can be put in jail for the remainder of the sentence.

House Arrest

House arrest or home confinement allows an individual to remain at home for a mandatory period of time rather than having to complete the sentence in jail. Under house arrest, an individual will be required to wear an electronic monitoring device, often known as an ankle bracelet. This device sends the individual’s location to supervisors and alerts them when the person leaves the designated area. Under house arrest, a person can only leave for approved purposes, such as work or doctor’s appointments.

Treatment Programs

A mandatory treatment program may be ordered in lieu of a jail or prison sentence if a judge believes treatment or counseling might be enough to correct the defendant’s criminal behavior or address the underlying reason for committing certain offenses. Examples include inpatient drug and alcohol rehabilitation, inpatient psychiatric treatment, mental health counseling, and anger management classes.

Community Service

Community service is a court order that requires a defendant to spend a certain number of hours serving the community, such as cleaning up public roads, performing janitorial work for a public agency or volunteering with city sanitation services. If the defendant completes the required number of community service hours, as proven by signatures from the supervisor of the program, he or she can avoid a more severe sentence.

Fines and Restitution

In some cases, a judge will allow a defendant to avoid going to jail by paying a certain amount in fines and/or restitution. The money from fines and surcharges typically goes toward the administrative expenses associated with the criminal case, while restitution is awarded to the victim of the crime. If you are convicted of criminal property damage, for example, you may be able to avoid jail by paying the property owner for property repairs.

Discuss Your Case With a Criminal Defense Attorney

Alternatives to jail or prison may be available for certain offenders, such as juveniles, people with clean criminal records and those accused of minor offenses. You can increase your chances of receiving an alternative sentence by hiring a criminal defense lawyer to represent you early on in your case. An attorney may be able to negotiate a plea deal with the prosecution that allows you to avoid incarceration or help by arguing your charges down from a felony to a misdemeanor. Your lawyer will fight for an alternative sentence on your behalf using all available defense techniques.