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House arrest

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In justice and law, house arrest (also called home confinement, home detention, or electronic monitoring) is a measure by which a person is confined by the authorities to a certain residence. Travel is usually restricted, if allowed at all. House arrest is an alternative to prison time or juvenile-detention time.


While house arrest can be applied to criminal cases when prison does not seem an appropriate measure, the term is often applied to the use of house confinement as a measure of repression by authoritarian governments against political dissidents. In that case, typically, the person under house arrest does not have access to any means of communication. If electronic communication is allowed, conversations will most likely be monitored. With some electronic monitoring units, the conversations of prisoners can be directly monitored via the unit itself.

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Judges have imposed sentences of home confinement, as an alternative to parole, as far back as the 1900s. Galileo was confined to his villa following his infamous trial in the 1600s. But it did not become a widespread alternative to imprisonment until electronic monitoring devices made it inexpensive and easy to manage. The first-ever court sentence of house arrest with an electronic bracelet was in 1983.


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Home detention provides an alternative to imprisonment and aims to reduce re-offending while also coping with expanding prison numbers and rising costs. It allows eligible offenders to retain or seek employment, maintain family relationships and responsibilities and attend rehabilitative programs that contribute towards addressing the causes of their offending.

House arrest SCRAM House Arrest Location Monitoring SCRAM Systems

The terms of house arrest can differ, but offenders are rarely confined to their residence 24 hours a day. Most programs allow employed offenders to continue to work, and only confine them during non-working hours. Offenders are also commonly allowed to leave their homes for specific, predetermined purposes; examples can include visits to the probation officer or police station, religious exceptions and medical appointments. Many programs also allow the convict to leave the residence during regular, pre-approved times in order to carry out general household errands such as food shopping and laundry. Offenders may also have to respond to communications from a higher authority to verify that they are at home when required to be. Exceptions are often made to allow visitors to visit the offender.

House arrest SCRAM House Arrest Location Monitoring SCRAM Systems

There are several types of house arrest, varying in severity as to the requirements of the court order. A curfew may restrict an offender to their house at certain times, usually during hours of darkness. Home confinement or detention would require an offender to remain at home for most hours, apart from the above-mentioned exceptions. The most serious is home incarceration which would constrain an offender to their home constantly, aside from court-sanctioned treatment programmes and medical appointments.

In some exceptional cases, it is possible for a person to be placed under house arrest without trial or legal representation, with restrictions on with whom they can associate. In some countries this has led to criticism, in which it is argued that this type of detention breaches the offender's human rights. In countries with authoritarian systems of government, such measures may be politically motivated to stifle dissent.

Using technology for enforcement

In some countries, house arrest is often enforced through the use of technology products or services. One method is an electronic sensor locked to the offender's ankle (technically called an ankle monitor, sometimes referred to as a tether). The electronic sensor transmits a GPS signal to a base handset. The base handset is connected to police or a monitoring service.

If the subject and the sensor venture too far from the home, the violation is recorded and the proper authorities are summoned. To discourage tampering, many ankle monitors can now detect attempted removal. The monitoring service is often contracted out to private companies, which assign employees to electronically monitor many convicts simultaneously. If the sensors detect a violation, the monitoring service calls the convict's probation officer. The electronic surveillance together with frequent contact with their probation officer and checks by the security guards provides for a secure environment.

Another method of ensuring house arrest compliance is achieved through the use of automated calling services that require no human contact to check on the offender. Random calls are made to the residence and the respondent's answer is recorded and compared to the offender's voice pattern. Authorities are notified only if the call is not answered or if the recorded answer does not match the offender's voice pattern.

Electronic monitoring is considered a highly economical alternative to the cost of imprisoning offenders, especially considering that the convict is often required to pay for the monitoring as part of his or her sentence.


  • Ahmed Ben Bella Former President of Algeria deposed by Houari Boumédiènne in 1965, went to exile in 1980.
  • Argentina

  • Jorge Videla Former President of Argentina (only for a period)
  • Australia

  • Derryn Hinch, controversial Melbourne-based New Zealand media personality, was placed under house arrest for five months for breaching gag orders by naming two sex offenders.
  • Burma

  • Aung San Suu Kyi, Winner of the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize and leader of her country's pro-democracy movement, has been under house arrest for most of the past twenty years. She was first placed under house arrest in July 1989 and, though freed six years later, she was again imprisoned in 2000. Two years later, Suu Kyi was released, but yet again jailed for the third time under house arrest after the infamous Depayin Massacre in 2003. She is released after her fourteenth year in confinement to her dilapidated home in Rangoon, in which she served another eighteen months imprisoned, convicted by a Burmese regional court in August 2009 after an American swam across Inya Lake to her house. All of her periods under house arrest have been declared arbitrary by the United Nations. She was released on the 13th November 2010.
  • Ne Win Former military commander of Burma from 1962. He was believed to be behind the coup d'état of 1988 which officially deposed him but following an attempt to retake power by his son-in-law, he put under house arrest in 2001 and remained so until his death in December 2002.
  • Cambodia

  • Pol Pot Former Premier of Cambodia. He was deposed when Vietnam attacked Cambodia in 1978.
  • Chile

  • On January 5, 2005, former dictator Augusto Pinochet was placed under house arrest by orders of the Supreme Court of Chile.
  • People's Republic of China

    The People's Republic of China continues to use soft detention, a traditional form of house arrest used by the Chinese Empire.

  • Zhao Ziyang, purged General Secretary of the Communist Party of China, was put under house arrest for the last 16 years of his life after the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989. His movements had to be approved by the Communist Party of China's Central Office, which only allowed him to travel quietly to different places inside China and to play golf.
  • Jiang Yanyong, physician who revealed SARS incident in China. He was put under house arrest after requesting the government to investigate the June 4 Tiananmen incident.
  • Gendhun Choekyi Nyima, a reincarnation or Tulku of the Gelug sect of Tibetan Buddhism was "recognized by the present Dalai Lama and taken into house arrest by the Chinese..."
  • Republic of China

  • Zhang Xueliang was put on house arrest by Chiang Kai-shek after the Xi'an Incident. Even after the Nationalists' retreat to Taiwan, he remained in house arrest until Chiang Ching-kuo's death in 1988.
  • Egypt

  • Ibn al-Haytham (Alhacen), Iraqi scientist working in Egypt. In 1011, he feigned madness in fear of angering the Egyptian caliph Al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah. He was kept under house arrest until the caliph's death in 1021.
  • Muhammad Naguib, former President of Egypt. He led a military coup in 1953 and deposed the former King Farouk. He was in turn deposed by Gamal Nasser in 1954.
  • Hawaii

  • The last Hawaiian queen Liliuokalani had her prison sentence commuted to imprisonment in an upstairs bedroom of Iolani Palace by the Republic of Hawaii until she was released in 1896.
  • Indonesia

  • Sukarno, First President of Indonesia. He was deposed in 1967 by General Suharto (see: Transition to the New Order).
  • Iran

  • Mohammad Mosaddegh, Former Premier of Iran was deposed by coup in 1953 with support of the United States. Following three years of imprisonment, he was placed under house arrest until his death.
  • Grand Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri was sentenced to house arrest from 1997 to 2003.
  • Mehdi Karroubi an influential Iranian reformist politician, democracy activist, mojtahed, and chairman of the National Trust Party, Chairman of the parliament from 1989 to 1992 and 2000 to 2004, and a presidential candidate in the 2005 and 2009 presidential elections. He is under house arrest from February 2011 until now.
  • Mir-Hossein Mousavi is an Iranian reformist politician, painter and architect who served as the seventy-ninth and last Prime Minister of Iran from 1981 to 1989. He was a candidate for the 2009 presidential election. He is under house arrest from February 2011 until now.
  • Googoosh is a famous Iranian singer and actress. After the Iran Revolution she was under a 21-year ban from performing and was assumed to be under house arrest for much of the time.
  • Italy

  • In Italy, the house arrest (in Italian arresti domiciliari) is a common practice of detaining suspects, alternative to detention in a correctional facility, and is also commonly practiced on those felons who are close to the end of their prison terms, or for those whose health condition do not allow their permanence in a correctional facility, except some particular cases of extremely dangerous persons. As for the article n°284 of the Italian Penal Procedure Code, the house arrests are imposed by a Judge, who orders the suspect to stay confined in his house, home, residence, private property, or any other place of cure or assistance where he/she may be housed at the moment. When necessary, the judge may also forbid any contact between the subject and any person other than those who cohabit with him/her or who assist him/her. If the subject is unable to take care of his/her life necessities or if he/she is in conditions of absolute poverty, the judge may authorize him/her to leave his/her home for the strict necessary time to take care of said needs or to exercise a job. The prosecuting authorities and law enforcement can check at any moment the factive respect of said orders by the subject, who's de facto considered in state of detention; violation of house arrest terms are immediately followed by transfer in a correctional facility. House arrests can not be applied to a subject that has been found guilty of escape within the previous five years.
  • Notable cases:

  • Erich Priebke, former SS captain, condemned for war crimes (Ardeatine massacre in Rome on 24 March 1944, when 335 Italian civilians were killed by Nazi force of occupation) to life imprisonment in 1996, spent under house arrest for the last part of his life, from 1998 to 2013 (when he died age of 100).
  • Adriano Sofri, journalist and former far left political leader, convicted in 1997 for the murder of Police Officer Luigi Calabresi (1972), spent under house arrest, for health reasons, the period between 2005 and 2012.
  • Silvia Baraldini, activist of Black Liberation Army in U.S.A. (sentenced to 43 years by Federal Court under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) for conspiring to commit two armed robberies, driving a secondary getaway car during the prison break of murder convict and fellow political activist Assata Shakur, and contempt to court), transferred to Italy in 1999, was spent the sentence on house arrest from 2001 to 2006, for health reasons.
  • Giovanni Scattone and Salvatore Ferraro, convicted for manslaughter of Marta Russo, spent under house arrest and community service a period of their condamn.
  • New Zealand

  • At sentencing, the judge may sentence an offender to home detention where they would otherwise receive a short-term prison sentence (i.e. two years or less). Home detention sentences range from 14 days and 12 months; offenders are confined to their approved residence 24 hours a day and may only leave with the permission of their probation officer.
  • Electronic monitoring equipment is extensively used by the New Zealand Department of Corrections to ensure that convicted offenders subject to home detention remain within approved areas. This takes the form of a Global Positioning System tracker fitted to the offender's ankle and monitoring units located at their residence and place of employment. As of 2015 over three thousand persons were serving home detention sentences under GPS surveillance.
  • Phil Rudd, two-time drummer with Australian rock legends AC/DC, has been sentenced to eight months home detention at his waterfront mansion in Tauranga for charges relating to methamphetamine possession and making death threats.
  • Nigeria

  • Shehu Shagari, President of Nigeria was placed under house arrest on December 31, 1983, following a military coup which ousted his government (see: Nigerian Second Republic).
  • General Muhammadu Buhari, Military Head of State was confined to his residence following the palace coup which ejected him from office.
  • MKO Abiola, was placed under house arrest after he declared himself the rightful winner of the 1993 presidential elections, against the wishes of the Ibrahim Babangida military junta. He was detained for five years till his death in 1998.
  • Pakistan

  • Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, 9th Prime minister and 4th President of Pakistan. He was deposed in 1977 in a military coup — Operation Fair Play — led by Chief of Army Staff General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq. Bhutto was put to trial and hanged later in 1979.
  • Navaz Sharif, 12th Prime minister. Sharif was deposed in 1999 in a similar military coup led by Chief of Army Staff and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee General Pervez Musharraf. Sharif was put in a forced trial, but due to foreign pressure exerted by Saudi Arabia and the United States, Sharif was exiled to Saudi Arabia which narrowly spared his life to face the same fate as of Bhutto. In 2010, Sharif was again put in house arrest by President Asif Ali Zardari when he announced a long march to support the Lawyers' Movement. However, Sharif broke the house arrest in his vehicle and drove to Islamabad to join the Movement.
  • Imran Khan, former captain of Pakistan cricket team and chairman of Pakistan Movement of Justice (PTI) was placed under house arrest at the declaration of a state of emergency by Chief of Army Staff General Pervaz Musharraf on November 3, 2007.
  • Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, Chief Justice of Pakistan, was put under house arrest on November 3, 2007 by General Pervaz Musharraf. His arrest led to mass protest and Lawyers' Movement.
  • Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan, Pakistan's top scientist and founder of Pakistan's Gas-centrifuge programme of the Pakistan's nuclear device was also put under house arrest for a long time by General Pervez Musharraf. Khan was forced to attend continuous military debriefings by Musharraf and was put in house arrest for a long time. Later, he was released from imprisonment in 2008 by the order of Islamabad High Court and the Supreme Court of Pakistan. Although the order has not been fully acted upon, he is legally out of under house arrest.
  • Roman Catholic Church

  • Galileo Galilei was put under house arrest for his advocacy for Copernicus's theory of the Sun in the middle of the universe and the Earth in motion about the Sun. He stayed under house arrest from 1634 until 1642 when he died.
  • Singapore

  • Chia Thye Poh, former leftist Member of Parliament, was arrested without charges and held under detention without trial in 1966. 22 years later, he was released and placed under house arrest in a guardhouse on the resort island of Sentosa and made to pay the rent, on the pretext that he was now a "free" man.
  • South Africa

  • Bram Fischer, former South African Communist Party leader, was diagnosed with cancer while in prison and was placed under house arrest due to pressure from the anti-apartheid groups.
  • Soviet Union

  • Former Premier Nikita Khrushchev was placed under house arrest for the seven years before his death after being deposed in 1964.
  • Academician Andrey Sakharov was placed under house arrest in 1980 and released in 1987.
  • Tunisia

  • Habib Bourguiba, former President of Tunisia. He was deposed in a military coup in 1987.
  • Muhammad VIII al-Amin, former king of Tunisia, he was deposed in 1957 by Habib Bourguiba.
  • United Kingdom

  • Provision to detain terrorist suspects under house arrest without trial has been made possible by the controversial Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005.
  • See also: Home Detention Curfew
  • United States

  • Riddick Bowe, a former boxing champion, was sentenced to be under brief house arrest after being released from prison.
  • William Calley, U.S. Army officer responsible for the My Lai massacre, served 3½ years of house arrest after presidential clemency instead of his original sentence of life imprisonment.
  • Dr. Dre (born Andre Romelle Young), one of the founding fathers of gangsta rap and former member of the influential hip-hop group N.W.A, was sentenced to a house arrest after breaking the jaw of a record producer. He told VH1's Behind the Music, "The walls started to cave in on me."
  • Paris Hilton, an heiress and socialite, was reassigned to house arrest on June 7, 2007, but was ordered back to prison on June 8, 2007 to serve the remainder of her 45-day sentence for violating probation from a prior DUI conviction.
  • Rodney King, who served a short sentence on house arrest for reckless driving.
  • Debra Lafave, a former middle-school teacher, was sentenced to house arrest on November 22, 2005 for having sex with a 14-year-old pupil.
  • Adrian Lamo, served six months house arrest following his convictions for hacking into The New York Times and Microsoft.
  • Lil Boosie (born Torrence Hatch), A rapper was sentenced to house arrest while awaiting trial.
  • Lindsay Lohan in 2011, served house arrest for violating her probation.
  • Bernard Madoff, after his Ponzi scheme was discovered, and $50 billion went missing.
  • John G. Rowland, former governor of Connecticut, spent four months under house arrest after serving 10 months in federal prison for corruption while in office.
  • Donte Stallworth, an NFL wide receiver, was sentenced on June 16, 2009 to two years house arrest for killing a pedestrian with his vehicle due to driving while intoxicated in Miami, Florida.
  • Martha Stewart was sentenced to five months of house arrest following her release from prison on March 4, 2005.
  • Dominique Strauss-Kahn was held under house arrest on bail as an alternative to detention at Riker's Island before his trial for sexual assault. Strauss-Kahn was released from house arrest on 1 July 2011.
  • Lionel Tate was sentenced under one-year house arrest under the terms of the plea bargain offered in January 2004.
  • T.I. (born Clifford Joseph Harris), an American rapper and co-CEO of Grand Hustle Records, was sentenced to house arrest after gun charges.
  • Michael Vick, former Atlanta Falcons quarterback, was approved for transition to home confinement from his federal incarceration on February 26, 2009.
  • Norman Whitfield, former Motown producer and songwriter, was convicted in 2005 of tax evasion for failing to report more than $4 million worth of royalties to the Internal Revenue Service, fined $25,000 and sentenced to six months house arrest in lieu of jail time because of health issues, including diabetes. Whitfield died of diabetes three years later.
  • Yugoslavia

  • Aloysius Stepinac, Cardinal Archbishop of sentenced to 16 years imprisonment for collaboration with the NDH regime, was released to house arrest after five years.
  • Cherish (film)
  • Disturbia (film)
  • House Arrest (film)
  • "House Arrest" (Sopranos episode)
  • The Nines
  • 100 Feet
  • References

    House arrest Wikipedia