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49 Fed. Probation 13 (1985)
Home as Prison: The Use of House Arrest

handle is hein.journals/fedpro49 and id is 15 raw text is: Home As Prison: The Use of House Arrest

jor crisis in the correctional field for at least
the last few years. The topic has dominated
yearly budgetary discussions between legislative
bodies and correctional administrators.' It has
preempted consideration for growth in governmen-
tal expenditures in other areas, as elected officials
ponder their means of meeting the one problem
alone. Beleaguered administrators have more
recently taken to public, media-directed warnings
about the explosive potential as prison and jail
populations continue to swell considerably past
capacity.2 The urgency of the problem has been
recognized at the highest level as well. President
Reagan's Task Force on Violent Crime, in its
published report of September 1982, proclaimed the
following: The problem of available bed space in
our state prisons is the single most significant
criminal justice issue in the country today.3 In the
state of Massachusetts, Governor Dukakis' Anti-
Crime Council has already established relief to over-
crowded prisons and jails as its top priority.4
Why the clamor? Partly, it is an expression of con-
cern for the conditions in which most inmates live.
The Federal Court System has been inundated with
prisoner law suits claiming violation of the eighth
amendment protection against cruel and unusual
punishment, and    courts-in  some cases-have
responded by ordering some states, under penalty of
contempt proceedings, to improve conditions.5
Those states' executives who may have trouble
mustering sympathy for inmates sleeping next to
boilers or sharing 5 by 8 cells with others will usual-
ly respond to a direct court order. Failing to comply
could threaten their tenure or budget.
Secondly, and more importantly, the issue is not a
temporary or stabilized one. Statistical projections
for growing censuses at prisons have consistently
been exceeded in reality. For example, in 1979, the
then governor of New York, Hugh Carey, projected
that the state would need 4,000 new prison cells by
1986. That projection was surpassed in 1981. Dur-
*Ronald P. Corbett, Jr. is director of training, Office of the
Commissioner of Probation, Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
Ellsworth A. L. Fersch is a court psychologist, Brighton and
Brookline, Massachusetts, a lecturer on psychology at Harvard
University, and chief psychologist, Massachusetts Mental
Health Center.

ing his first month in office, in January 1983, Gover-
nor Cuomo's projections for new cells needed within
12 months was reached in four.6 As judges show no
inclination to move away from sentencing patterns
that have grown      stiffer since the mid-1970's,
today's overwhelming problem will take on
catastrophic proportions soon.
Much of the answer to the question as now posed
must come in the form of new prison construction.
Though this is inevitable, it raises enormous dif-
ficulties on many fronts for state executives. First,
any significant new construction is immensely ex-
pensive.7 The 8,800 new cells that Governor Cuomo
claims are needed will come at a cost of $700 million
and will absorb most of any foreseeable growth in
state expenditures.' Secondly, the public is ex-
ceedingly fickle about such proposals. Anxious to
see more serious criminals locked up, the public re-
mains uninterested in publicly subsidized bond
issues for construction and positively adamant on
the point that prisons, however funded, shall not be
placed near anyone's home. This creates, to put it
mildly, a dilemma for public officials who would like
to think that the problem is solvable.
In an attempt to deal with the dilemma, we argue
for increased attention to alternatives to incarcera-
tion. Within those alternatives, traditional options
now coexist with some of a newer vintage.
Alternatives to Incarceration
Prisons have never been the answer for the over-
whelming majority of offenders. Rather, most of-
fenders are never incarcerated. Most offenders are
viewed as needing something less than incarcera-
'Robert Gangi. Never Enough Prisons, New York Times. August 6. 1983. p.
Prison Overcrowding, Criminal Justice Newsletter, fall promotional circular,
*1984. p. 1.
Report to the President of the United States on Violent Crime, Department of
Justice. Washington. D.C., 1982.
4 Phone conversations with support staff, Governor Dukakis' Anti-Crime Council
Summer 1983.
' Prison Overcrowding, Criminal Justice Newsletter. Fall promotional circular,
1984, p. 1.
6 Robert Gangi. Never Enough Prisons. New York Times, August 6, 1983. p.
William G. Blair, Inmate Cost is Put at $40,000 a Year, New York Times,
December 27, 1984, p. 1.
s Robert Gangi. Never Enough Prisons, New York Times, August 6. 1983. p.

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