Mississippi has a special program called the intensive supervision program, which is commonly referred to as ISP or house arrest. Federal courts have a similar program that I’ll cover in a later post. For now, though, let’s talk about how Mississippi treats house arrest. House arrest is used as an alternative to actual incarceration, which means that if a person is convicted, rather than spend time in jail, they are confined to their home. What a lot of people do not realize, though, is that not everyone who is convicted of a crime in a Mississippi state court is eligible for house arrest.
So, who is eligible for house arrest? Juvenile offenders (those that are in youth court) are automatically eligible for house arrest. Under Mississippi’s statutes, an adult can be placed under house arrest, so long as they are not convicted of a crime of violence or a sex crime. As long as they meet those two basic requirements, then a judge may consider them for house arrest.
The problem is that even though a person may be eligible for house arrest, it does not mean that they will automatically get it. The sentencing judge still has the discretion to determine whether a person will be placed under house arrest rather than actual incarceration. This is where a good lawyer comes in. Ideally, during the sentencing phase, which occurs after a guilty plea or guilty verdict, you and your lawyer will have already gathered the necessary information to show the judge that it would be better to place you under house arrest rather than put you in jail. Perhaps you are the sole provider for your family, or you live with a loved one that is battling a terminal illness. Maybe you are a first-time offender who is being convicted of a low-level property crime, like malicious mischief. Maybe you can show the court that if you are placed under house arrest, you can attend AA or NA meetings or provide a certain number of community service hours. The sky is the limit in terms of how you and your lawyer can argue that house arrest is a better fit for your situation.
The thing to remember, though, is that even if you are placed under house arrest, you still are under MDOC custody, even though you may be at home. A probation officer can visit your home anytime and do a random drug screen. If you are not where you are supposed to be or fail a drug test, that means that you would be taken off of house arrest and go straight to jail. The same thing would occur if you are charged or convicted of another crime, which includes most misdemeanors. In the end though, while you may still be under MDOC, house arrest is a much better alternative to incarceration, since it allows you to work, be around family, and serve your time at home.