Legislation now allows more home confinement sentences as the federal Bureau of Prisons releases thousands of low-risk offenders, according to an article by Greg Newburn of the Niskanen Center.
In March 2020 Congress passed the CARES Act, allowing some prisoners to serve time in home confinement rather than federal prisons.
Emerging data shows that this alternative to incarceration will not compromise public safety, signaling that lawmakers should consider expansion of home confinement, according to the Nov. 6 article by the Niskanen Center. The center describes itself as a nonpartisan think-tank working to promote political, cultural and social change.
Home confinement eligibility factors include a person’s age, history of disciplinary action, and what type of crime was committed.
The story notes that a 2016 report said that only 17 of 11,000 people, or 0.15%, who were serving home confinement sentences had been charged with new crimes. In contrast, the report noted that 27% of incarcerated people not serving home confinement were rearrested within two years of release.
The data and the success of home confinement suggest that lawmakers should consider electronic monitoring as a permanent alternative for low-risk offenders, according to the article.
Norway has reported that electronic monitoring reduced reoffending in that country by 10%; Australia reports a reduction of 16%, and Argentina also reported a drop in recidivism by serious offenders.
Some reformists oppose electronic monitoring, calling it “e-carceration,” and argue that home confinement is the same as imprisonment.
The goal of imprisonment is to separate those who are likely to hurt other people, but prison can be isolating, cruel, and deadly, according to the Niskanen Center. The article argues that incarcerated people deserve a choice of less restrictive confinement.
The story noted that the use of home confinement raises questions including: Should drug and alcohol testing be included in the program? Should the program be offered or mandated?
The CARES Act only applies to about 7% of federal prisons’ populations, the story reports.