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Alexei Nikolaevich and his sister Tatiana Nikolaevna surrounded by guards during their house arrest in Tsarskoye Selo, April 1917

In justice and law, house arrest (also called home confinement, home detention, or, in modern times, electronic monitoring) is a measure by which a person is confined by the authorities to their residence. Travel is usually restricted, if allowed at all. House arrest is an alternative to being in a prison while awaiting trial or after sentencing.

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 these cases, the person under house arrest often does not have access to any means of communication with people outside of the home; if electronic communication is allowed, conversations may be monitored.


Judges have imposed sentences of home confinement, as an alternative to prison, as far back as the 17th century. Galileo was confined to his home following his infamous trial in 1633. Authorities often used house arrest to confine political leaders who were deposed in a coup d'état, but this method was not widely used to confine numerous common criminals.

This method did not become a widespread alternative to imprisonment in the United States and other western countries until the late 20th century, when newly designed electronic monitoring devices made it inexpensive and easy to manage by corrections authorities. Although Boston was using house arrest for a variety of arrangements, the first-ever court sentence of house arrest with an electronic bracelet was in 1983.[1]


The examples and perspective in this section deal primarily with the United States and do not represent a worldwide view of the subject. You may improve this section, discuss the issue on the talk page, or create a new section, as appropriate. (December 2020) (Learn how and when to remove this message)

Home detention is an alternative to imprisonment; its goals are both to reduce recidivism and to decrease the number of prisoners, thereby saving money for states and other jurisdictions. It is a corrective to mandatory sentencing laws that greatly increased the incarceration rates in the United States.[2] 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.

The terms of house arrest can differ, but most programs allow employed offenders to continue to work, and confine them to their residence only during non-working hours. Offenders are commonly allowed to leave their home for specific purposes; examples can include visits to the probation officer or police station, religious services, education, attorney visits, court appearances, and medical appointments.[3][4] Many programs also allow the convict to leave their residence during regular, pre-approved times in order to carry out general household errands, such as food shopping and laundry. Offenders may 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.[5]

The types of house arrest vary in severity according 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 requires an offender to remain at home at all times, apart from the above-mentioned exceptions. The most serious level of house arrest is "home incarceration", under which an offender is restricted to their residence 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, except for court-approved treatment programs, court appearances, and medical appointments.[2]

In some exceptional cases, it is possible for a person to be placed under house arrest without trial or legal representation, and subject to restrictions on their associates.[6] In some countries this type of detention without trial has been criticized for breaching the offender's human right to a fair trial.[7] In countries with authoritarian systems of government, the government may use such measures to stifle dissent.

Using technology for enforcement

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

If the offender goes too far from their home, the violation is recorded, and the police will be notified. To discourage tampering, many ankle monitors detect attempted removal. The monitoring service is often contracted out to private companies, which assign employees to electronically monitor many convicts simultaneously. If a violation occurs the unit signals the office or officer in charge immediately, depending on the severity of the violation. The officer will either call or verify the participant's whereabouts.[8] The monitoring service notifies a 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. The respondent's answer is recorded and compared automatically 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. In many states or jurisdictions, the convict is often required to pay for the monitoring as part of his or her sentence. [citation needed]

Notable instances

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Myanmar (Burma)



People's Republic of China (PRC)

The People's Republic of China continues to use soft detention, a traditional form of house arrest used by the Chinese Empire.[10]

Republic of China (ROC)



Hong Kong




In Italy, house arrest (in Italian arresti domiciliari) is a common practice of detaining suspects, as an 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 does not allow residence in a correctional facility, except some particular cases of extremely dangerous persons. As per article 284 of the Italian Penal Procedure Code, house arrest is imposed by a judge, who orders the suspect to stay confined in their house, home, residence, private property, or any other place of cure or assistance where they 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 them or those who assist them. If the subject is unable to take care of their life necessities or if they are in conditions of absolute poverty, the judge may authorize them to leave their 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 whether the subject, who is de facto considered in state of detention, is complying with the order; violation of house arrest terms is immediately followed by transfer to a correctional facility. House arrests cannot be applied to a subject that has been found guilty of escape within the previous five years.

Notable cases:

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.



Catholic Church


South Africa

House arrest was a common tool of the South African apartheid government, used to silence their opponents, along with banning orders.

Soviet Union

Grand Duchesses Maria, Olga, Anastasia and Tatiana Nikolaevna under house arrest in Tsarskoye Selo, May 1917


United Kingdom

See also: Home Detention Curfew

United States


In popular culture




See also


  1. ^ Juliet Lapidos (January 28, 2009). "You're Grounded! How do you qualify for house arrest?". Slate Magazine.
  2. ^ a b Levinson, David. (2002). Encyclopedia of Crime and Punishment: Volumes I-IV. SAGE Publications. p. 859. ISBN 978-0-7619-2258-2
  3. ^ Spohn, Cassia. (2008). How Do Judges Decide?: The Search for Fairness and Justice in Punishment. SAGE Publications Inc. p. 52. ISBN 978-1-4129-6104-2
  4. ^ Karen Freifeld, Chris Dolmetsch and Don Jeffrey (20 May 2011). "Strauss-Kahn May Have Spent Last Night in Jail After Bail".
  5. ^ Mele, Christopher. (2005). Civil Penalties, Social Consequences. Routledge. p. 139. ISBN 978-0-415-94823-4
  6. ^ Jupp, James; Nieuwenhuysen, John; Dawson, Emma. (2007). Social Cohesion in Australia. Cambridge University Press. p. 183. ISBN 978-0-521-70943-9
  7. ^ "Q&A: Terrorism laws". BBC News Online. July 3, 2006
  8. ^[permanent dead link]
  9. ^ Marshall, Andrew (2009-08-11). "Burma Court Finds Aung San Suu Kyi Guilty". TIME. Archived from the original on August 14, 2009. Retrieved 2010-11-15.
  10. ^ Tatlow, Didi Kirsten (March 9, 2011). "Out of Jail in China, but Not Free". The New York Times.
  11. ^ Norman, Alexander (2008). Holder of the White Lotus: the Lives of the Dalai Lama. London: Little, Brown. p. 165. ISBN 978-0-316-85988-2.
  12. ^ "National security law: prosecutors lose bid to overturn HK$10 million bail granted to Jimmy Lai, who is placed under house arrest". South China Morning Post. 23 December 2020.
  13. ^ Mydans, Seth (30 May 2000). "Suharto Under House Arrest During Corruption Inquiry". The New York Times. Retrieved 5 January 2020.
  14. ^ Eccentric Nationalist Begets Strange History, The New York Times 7 December 2009.
  15. ^ "Iran releases dissident cleric". BBC News. 2003-01-30. Retrieved 2007-06-08.
  16. ^ "Dissident Ayatollah Demands Iran's Rulers Be Elected". FOX News. Associated Press. 2003-09-17. Archived from the original on 2007-05-30. Retrieved 2007-06-08.
  17. ^ "AC/DC's Phil Rudd Sentenced to House Detention for Eight Months". Us Weekly. 9 July 2015.
  18. ^ Background note: Nigeria. U.S. Department of State
  19. ^ a b c Joseph, Helen (1986). "Chapter XV - House arrest". Side by Side. Morrow. Retrieved 17 July 2019. ((cite book)): |website= ignored (help)
  20. ^ Saunders, Blair Dickman (2011). Conflict of Color: White Activists in the SouthAfrican Anti-Apartheid Movement (Thesis). Undergraduate honors thesis. Retrieved 17 July 2019.
  21. ^ a b "Banned People in Apartheid-era South Africa". South Africa: Overcoming apartheid, building democracy. Retrieved 17 July 2019.
  22. ^ "Anti-terrorism law row rumbles on". BBC News Online. March 12, 2005
  23. ^ "Rodney King Gets House Arrest for Reckless Driving". NBC News. Retrieved 6 May 2014.
  24. ^ " - Guilty of sex with student, teacher avoids prison - Nov 23, 2005". Retrieved 2023-06-23.
  25. ^ LaFraniere, Sharon (15 June 2018). "Judge Orders Manafort Jailed Before Trial, Citing New Obstruction Charges". The New York Times. Retrieved 2018-06-15.
  26. ^ "Jerry Sandusky heads back to court to resolve juror dispute and bail conditions". CBS News. 10 February 2012.
  27. ^ "Jerry Sandusky gets 30-60 years for molesting boys". 9 October 2012.
  28. ^ "Inmate/Parolee Locator".
  29. ^ "Ex-IMF head Dominique Strauss-Kahn freed without bail". BBC News. 1 July 2011. Retrieved 1 July 2011.
  30. ^ Coscarelli, Joe (22 August 2017). "Tay-K Was a 17-Year-Old 'Violent Fugitive.' then His Song Went Viral". The New York Times.