Sunday, January 1, 2023

Home confinement is safer, more effective, than incarceration

The evidence is clear: home confinement is much safer, and more effective, than prison incarceration, writes Billy Sinclair for The Crime Report. 

Home confinement is not a release “back on the streets” to roam free. The offender is required to wear an ankle monitor to ensure presence in the home just as they would undergo “count procedures” to ensure their presence in prison or jail cells; they must secure permission to leave their homes for reasons such as work or medical appointments just as they would have to do in jail or prison; and they must remain crime and drug free just as they would have to do in general prison population in order to avoid disciplinary lockdown.

Ms. Gill concluded her Post piece with these conclusions:

“The federal Cares Act home confinement program should inspire similar programs across the country. Virtually all states have programs available to release elderly or very sick people from prison, but they are hardly used and should be expanded. States should also give people serving the longest sentences a chance to go back to court after 10 or 15 years and prove that they have changed and can be safely released.” 

“The data is in. It shows that we can thoughtfully release low-risk people from prison with supervision and not cause a new crime wave. At a time when crime is going up in so many cities and towns, we cannot afford to waste money or resources keeping those who no longer need to be in prison locked up.”

The same Cares Act home confinement model could be applied to prison and especially jail systems throughout the nation. 

On any given day, there are anywhere from 500,000 to 550,000 people the nation’s jail systems—roughly half of whom would qualify for a Cares Act type home confinement.

These are offenders who have been arrested for low level drug, minor property, and other non-violent offenses. 

Most counties, particularly in larger urban areas, already have in place local government departments that coordinate and monitor community supervision with hundreds of employees.

These departments have the resources and skills necessary to handle additional hundreds, if not thousands, of jail detainees who could be released from jail detention to home confinement without posing any measurable risk to public safety. 

The costs savings to taxpayers would be staggering—not to mention that home confinement could free up dozens of jail staffers to be re-deployed to street patrols where they could better protect and serve the community.

Jails are considered the “front door” into the nation’s criminal justice system.  

More than 10.3 million people pass through these doors each year. Black and low-income people disproportionately make up the number of people arrested and placed in jail systems where they are held because they cannot make bail. 

It is an insane system: the dangerous offender with money is released from jail detention because they can afford bail while the non-dangerous offender remains in jail detention because they cannot post bail, even minimal amounts

The fix to this recurring racial/income inequity would be to treat non-dangerous jail detainees as the BOP did with its non-dangerous prison inmates under the Cares Act home confinement model. 

The BOP learned that most non-dangerous offenders have homes and family support systems. The same is true for jail detainees whose community support structures allow for successful home confinement pending a resolution of their pretrial court proceedings.

 It serves no legitimate criminal justice interests to keep non-dangerous individuals packed in overcrowded and unsafe jails pending trial when successful home confinement programs are available.

While the data is not completely clear, according to the Prison Policy Initiative, about the correlation of pretrial detention versus violent crime rates, it is clear that a small percentage of non-dangerous jail detainees placed in home confinement would reoffend but the number that would commit violent crimes would be minuscule as evidenced by those released under the Cares Act home confinement program. 

One other thing that can be said with more than a fair amount of certainty is that brutal pretrial detention influences far more individuals to reoffend than would home confinement.

That certainty underscores the reality that pretrial jail detention is more harmful to public safety than home confinement.

We suggest that mayor’s offices, district attorney’s offices, and local law enforcement agencies get together, just as the DOJ and the BOP did during the height of the COVID pandemic, and develop meaningful home confinement programs to replace the arbitrary and unfair jail detention practices currently in place.

The evidence is compelling that the general public would be better served, through taxpayer savings and enhanced public safety, if local officials transitioned from pretrial jail detention to home confinement.

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