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Are There Alternatives to Going to Jail?

March 15, 2022

person holding barsServing a jail sentence may be the most feared penalty of all criminal convictions. You don’t just lose your freedom if you go to jail. You are also forced to live in a communal setting with strangers, some of them intimidating and violent.

If you are facing charges that could result in a jail sentence, you should know there are opportunities in Texas to pay for your crime without incarceration. These sentencing alternatives are not available to every offender, but for those who are eligible, they can be a far more pleasant option than jail.

If you are interested in pursuing an alternative sentencing arrangement, talk to a former prosecuting attorney who has now been a criminal defense lawyer for more than 15 years. Mekisha Jane Walker defends clients facing jail in Houston, Texas, and throughout Fort Bend, Harris, Brazoria, Montgomery, and Galveston counties.

What Is Alternative Sentencing?

Alternative sentencing involves punishments that a convicted offender must complete in lieu of a jail sentence. Alternative sentencing benefits the offender and the justice system at large. Studies have shown that those who complete alternative sentences instead of jail sentences are significantly less likely to re-offend by committing another crime.

Moreover, Texas saves money. The cost of incarceration of an offender for one year is more than $22,000. That is significantly more than the cost of probation supervision, drug court or mental health treatment, electronic monitoring, or other alternatives.

Not being incarcerated may help offenders remain employed during the alternative sentencing period. They can support themselves and their families and pay taxes rather than use taxpayer dollars to keep them confined.


Diversion programs give offenders an opportunity to be diverted out of the court system. If they successfully complete a diversion program, which usually involves addiction treatment or rehabilitation programs, the charges against them may be dropped. That means no conviction will appear on a criminal record.

Diversion programs are a “second chance” opportunity usually used for nonviolent offenders whose crimes involved drugs or alcohol.

House Arrest

House arrest confines the offender to their home instead of in jail. Under certain circumstances, the offender may be allowed to leave the house for such activities as going to work, school, church, treatment programs, court appearances, and to visit their probation officer. All movements will be monitored constantly by a device, commonly referred to as an “ankle bracelet.”

House arrest may be an option for first-time and nonviolent offenders and offenses involving minor drug possession, DUI, or other offenses. They will be able to do many necessary activities of daily living, but not all. In addition, those under house arrest will be required to pay for the monitoring devices and services which can be costly.

Community Service

Community service is time ordered by the court that the offender must spend volunteering for an approved organization whose work benefits society. This could be a local charitable organization, for example.

Community service is often ordered as punishment for offenses such as DUI and minor drug possession or use crimes committed by first-time, nonviolent offenders. The required community service hours are usually accompanied by fines, treatment programs, and victim restitution.


Probation is usually ordered when the court suspends a nonviolent or first offender’s jail sentence. Instead of going to jail, the court will specify the terms of probation, which could include such requirements as reporting to a probation officer, appearing in court, undergoing treatment programs, community service, fines, and restitution. It might also include the prohibition of activities such as associating with certain people, consuming alcohol, or being at a place that serves it.

If an offender violates the terms of probation, they may lose the privilege of the suspended sentence and be ordered to go to jail.

How an Experienced Attorney Can Help

Alternative sentencing is an opportunity for some offenders; however, it is not automatic. You will need to make your case for why you should receive the privilege instead of going to jail. Having an experienced criminal defense attorney make the case for you will increase your chances of receiving an alternative sentence.

If you want to avoid going to jail for a crime you have been accused of or charged with, there is no time to waste. Call Mekisha Jane Walker at Walker Law Office right now to schedule a consultation. It could make the difference between going to jail or paying for your conviction another way.