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Are There Alternatives to Going to Jail? 

McBride Law Oct. 26, 2022

Prison Male InmateThose facing criminal charges are understandably concerned about the possible penalties that a conviction might bring. Chief among these worries is whether or not they’ll be sentenced to jail. Having to spend time incarcerated not only means you’ll be away from your family and loved ones, but it also means you’ll be unable to work and be a productive member of society.  

The good news is that for some, there are alternatives to going to jail. By speaking with a skilled criminal defense attorney, you can learn if any of these options are available to you.  

Reach out to the team at McBride Law today to schedule a consultation and start taking control of your future. With offices in Quincy, Massachusetts, McBride Law can help those throughout the state, including Norwell, Hingham, Weymouth, and Boston. 

Alternative Sentencing  

As you progress through the criminal justice system and consult with your attorney about your options, you’ll likely hear the term, “alternative sentencing.” This is a broad term that can refer to any alternative punishments that don’t include incarceration (jail or prison time).  

Alternative sentencing is almost always preferable to those facing conviction because it allows them more freedom and can increase their opportunities to build a better life. Additionally, it can decrease costs for the state since housing an individual in jail is very expensive. Because of this, for some offenders, it’s possible that both the prosecution and your defense team will want to pursue options outside of incarceration.  


One common form of alternative sentencing is called diversion, which simply means you’re being “diverted” out of the jail system and into another program to help you yet still provide a consequence for your actions. Diversion programs vary, and both states and smaller municipalities will have their own unique diversion programs specific to the needs of the community.  

After successful completion of this program, your charges will often be dropped and you essentially get a do-over with your record wiped clean. Diversion programs are typically only available to defendants who have been charged with non-violent crimes, first-time offenders, and very often, juvenile offenders.  

For example, Massachusetts has a Juvenile Diversion Program that’s available to first-time offenders between the ages of 12 and 18. Law enforcement and the courts will work with the schools and families to set up a program tailored to the individual that usually involves regular check-ins, counseling, and community service. Other diversion programs may focus on rehabilitation for drug or alcohol abuse.  

House Arrest  

House arrest may be an alternative to jail for some where the offender agrees to stay at their home or within a specified area. Their location is often monitored electronically (usually by wearing an anklet that tracks movement).  

In some cases, the individual may be able to travel to and from work. If they are found to be traveling outside of this area, they will be in violation and may have to serve jail time instead.  

Like diversion programs, house arrest is typically reserved for those who are charged with non-violent crimes and those who will not pose a threat to others by being in the community. It may also be considered for those who meet these criteria and have a compelling reason for needing to be at home, such as caring for a family member who is elderly or disabled.  

Community Service  

Community service is often included in sentencing, whether it’s used alongside other penalties (such as fines and probation) or on its own as an alternative sentence. There are various kinds of community service and the kind assigned to you will often align with the reason you were arrested.  

For example, if you were arrested for drug charges, you may be asked to speak to youth about the dangers of drugs. Or, you may be asked to volunteer with a local organization helping out your community. Community service may be available to you for minor crimes or if you’ve been arrested as a juvenile. 


Finally, you may be granted probation as an alternative to going to jail or in addition to paying fines, participating in a diversion program, or completing community service. Probation is often available for both misdemeanor and felony charges and can be either supervised or unsupervised.  

In some cases, successfully completing probation will mean that your charges are reduced, while in others, it may mean that you’ll still go to jail, but for a shorter amount of time. If you violate the terms of your probation (for example, by leaving the state, failing a drug test, or failing to meet with your probation officer), you’ll likely face jail time. 

Turn to McBride Law for Advocacy 

If you’re in the Quincy, Massachusetts, area and are looking for an experienced attorney to represent you, contact the lawyers at McBride Law today.