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50 Fed. Probation 142 (1986)
Exploring the Option of House Arrest

handle is hein.journals/fedpro50 and id is 144 raw text is: Exploring the Option of House Arrest
Senior Researcher, The Rand Corporation, Santa Monica, California

N DECEMBER 1985, Maureen Murphy was
sentenced by a Federal judge in New York to house
arrest. The rarity of this sentence in U.S. criminal
justice is suggested by the judge's remarks:
The sentencing of Maureen Murphy requires, in the court's opinion,
a sentence not heretofore used in this District and almost never used
in the country in the federal court. It is used elsewhere in the world
and is considered by some to be highly objectionable. The difference,
however, is that in other countries it is used to repress political dis-
sent and before trial. Here it will be used after a full trial where
the defendant has been found guilty of a serious offense. The penalty
is house arrest.1
With that pronouncement, Judge Weinstein ordered
Ms. Murphy to remain in her apartment for the next 2
years. She is allowed to leave her apartment only for
medical reasons, employment, religious services, or to
conduct essential food shopping. If she violates these con-
ditions, the probation department is ordered to commit
her to prison, where she will be required to serve out her
suspended (not cancelled) prison term.
Ms. Murphy was not a minor offender. She was con-
victed of a large insurance fraud and faced a maximum
50 years in prison and $50,000 fine for her crimes. In most
instances, the Federal court would have imposed at least
a year in custody.
What motivated Judge Weinstein to make such an im-
portant departure from traditional sentencing practice?
Judge Weinstein says he was trying to balance the com-
peting aims of public safety, humaneness, and
accountability-against a backdrop of seriously crowded
prisons. Probation didn't seem like enough for this
35-year old woman who willfully committed a major
theft. On the other hand, prison for this relatively young
person with no prior criminal record seemed too severe
and would help destroy her. Given those conditions,
he felt an alternative punishment was essential.
Judge Weinstein and a growing number of his col-
leagues are searching for reasonable middle-range sen-
tencing options-programs tougher than probation but
less harsh (and less expensive) than prison. Variations on
the theme include intensive probation supervision, shock
I From Judge Jack Weinstein's Sentencing Memorandum in the Maureen Murphy case
(United States District Court, Eastern District of New York, December 1985).
2 Rand conducted a mail survey entitled Innovations in Probation which was com-
pleted by 120 chief probation officers in fall, 1985. These particular individuals were selected
to represent a nationwide sample of chiefs from large counties. Followup telephone interviews
were conducted with about 50 of these persons who reported operating particularly innovative
surveilance-oriented programs, including house arrest. In addition, the chiefs recommended
others in parole or the private sector who operated similar programs. Complete results of this
survey., sponsored by the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation, will be published in fall, 1986.
While house arrest could be used pretrial, our discussion is limited to its use for con-
victed felons, either as a condition of probation or parole, a direct sentence, or a condition
of release after some period of incarceration (e.g., on work-release from jail).

incarceration, community diversion centers, police-
probation surveillance teams, community sponsors, and,
increasingly, house arrest.
Florida has the most ambitious house arrest program
in the country, with more than 4,750 inmates locked
up in their residence. As one Florida judge put it: If
the State can't afford to provide constitutionally accept-
able prison space for all those who deserve it, why not
utilize the offender's home instead? It may well be that
the best place for a convicted offender, given current
prison conditions, may be confined to his own home.
Many in the judiciary are echoing similar thoughts,
and house arrest programs are beginning to spread not
only in the Federal system but in state and local correc-
tions as well. A recent survey of Innovations in Proba-
tion shows that several states-including Oklahoma,
Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, Indiana, Georgia,
Texas, and South Carolina-currently operate state-run
home detention programs. Similar programs exist at the
county level in several others. In total, 30 states are im-
plementing some form of house arrest program, and a
dozen more are planning programs to be implemented
in the next year.2
This article summarizes the characteristics of house ar-
rest programs and discusses their advantages and several
important unresolved issues. It concludes by noting that
probation's long-term survival may well depend on
whether it succeeds in implementing house arrest and
other intensive surveillance programs. If it can adapt its
methods of supervision and service to deal with higher
risk offenders in the community, probation may well find
itself back in favor with the public and again the center
of modern corrections policy.
Characteristics of House Arrest
While the goal of house arrest is easily under-
stood-to restrict freedom-the mechanisms used to con-
fine an offender to his home vary considerably. In some
instances, curfews are simply added on to the offender's
court-ordered parole or probation conditions.3 Typi-
cally, offenders participating in an intensive probation
supervision program are required to be in their residence
during the evening hours and on weekends. For exam-
ple, evening curfews are mandatory for participants in
Georgia's intensive probation program. While curfews
permit individual freedom in the community except for
particular hours, more direct home incarceration pro-
grams totally restrict the offenders freedom in all but
court approved limited activities. The latter is much more
intrusive than the former.

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