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Man in prison

Are There Alternatives to Going to Jail? 

Strand Law Offices, LLC Jan. 31, 2023

Recent statistics from the Prison Policy Initiative indicate that there are nearly 170,000 unique jail admissions in Pennsylvania annually. In the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, convicted defendants are often subject to imprisonment and other forms of penalties. 

However, the majority of inmates often experience the adverse implications of incarceration, such as institutionalization, antisocial behaviors, and mental health disorder. Fortunately, there are other substitutes to imprisonment that will encourage rehabilitation and reduce the negative impact of prison on the defendant's mind and body. 

At Strand Law Offices, LLC, we're committed to offering experienced legal counsel and reliable representation to clients in alternative sentencing matters. Our skilled Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney can enlighten you about the benefits of alternative sentencing and help determine your eligibility. We're proud to serve clients across West Chester, Lancaster County, and surrounding counties throughout Pennsylvania. 

What Is Alternative Sentencing? 

Alternative sentencing comprises different forms of penalties that a convicted defendant may be subject to apart from serving time in prison or jail. The Pennsylvania court may impose alternative sentencing on a person to encourage reform and reduce or mitigate the negative effects of the custody experience on the person. 

Benefits of Alternative Sentencing 

Below are some of the benefits of alternative sentencing: 

  • It can serve as a substitute for imprisonment in prison or jail. 

  • Offenders will still have access to safe addiction treatment and professional counseling. 

  • It helps mitigate the negative impact of imprisonment on the offender's mind, body, and emotions. 

  • The defendant will be able to contribute positively to the immediate community. 

  • It helps the offender learn crucial life lessons and skills. 

  • It helps the defendant avoid institutionalization. 

  • It reduces operating costs and ensures targeted use of prisons and jails. 

If you or someone you know has been convicted of a crime and want to understand your alternative sentencing options, you should get in touch with a seasoned criminal defense attorney straight away. Your legal representative can educate you about Pennsylvania's sentencing guidelines and the imprisonment alternatives that might be available to you. 

Types of Alternative Sentencing 

Your eligibility for alternative sentencing in Pennsylvania usually depends on the nature, type, and severity of the crime under question. Also, having no prior records of an arrest or conviction can increase your prospects of getting approved. Understand your or your loved one’s alternatives to going to jail in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. 

Diversion Program 

A diversion program is an alternative sentencing that can help prevent your case from going to trial. It involves diverting a case out of the criminal justice system and placing it into a pre-trial status. Here are some common diversion programs in Pennsylvania: 

  • ARD (Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition) Program 

  • Drug Treatment Court 

  • Summary Diversion Program 

  • Section 17 or Section 18 Drug Program 

  • SAM (Small Amount of Marijuana) Program 

  • AMP I (Alternative Misdemeanor Program I) 

  • AMP II (Alternative Misdemeanor Program II). 

Once diverted, the defendant must complete the necessary requirements of the diversion program. Upon successful completion, your criminal charges will be dismissed or dropped. 

House Arrest 

Furthermore, the Pennsylvania court may order house arrest to help the defendant cope better by keeping them in their immediate community. However, a defendant under house arrest will be required to put on a Global Positioning System (GPS) bracelet or electronic monitoring device on their ankle. This will be used to monitor the defendant's whereabouts. 

The probation department would receive a notification anytime the defendant goes out of their permissible range. Individuals facing DUI charges in Pennsylvania may be eligible for the House Arrest Program. 

Community Service 

As the name implies, a defendant may be ordered to perform voluntary projects or unpaid work which would benefit the community affected by the criminal actions. However, the crime committed by the defendant must be linked with the community. Some examples of community service that may be ordered by the judge include: 

  • Paying restitution to the harmed or injured parties 

  • Performing unpaid work within the community 

  • Sponsoring or counseling other substance abusers 

  • Speaking at an event or school about the consequences of committing a criminal act 

  • Working at a nonprofit, charity organization, or public agency 

Depending on the circumstances surrounding the offense, the Pennsylvania court may order community service as a separate sentence or as part of probation conditions. 


Probation is another alternative sentencing that allows the offender to remain within their community, usually under the supervision of a probation officer. Also, there are certain terms and conditions that the person under probation must adhere to. Here are the different types of probation that are available to defendants in Pennsylvania: 

  • Supervised probation 

  • Informal probation or unsupervised probation 

  • Intensive supervision 

  • Community control 

  • Shock probation 

However, violating any probation terms may result in revocation, additional penalties, or other consequences. A strategic criminal defense attorney can advocate for your best interests and seek to achieve a favorable sentencing alternative for your unique situation. 

Serving the West Chester Area With Experienced Advocacy 

A criminal conviction can be scary and might have far-reaching, immediate, and life-long consequences on your quality of life, liberty, and future. However, this doesn't mean you must serve time behind bars. With more than 20 years of extensive experience, our attorney is poised and ready to help clients facing criminal charges fight to avoid the worst possible penalties. 

As your legal counsel, we will work to understand the sentencing guidelines addressing your case and determine the right alternative incarceration option for your unique situation. Also, our skilled attorney will fight aggressively to protect your rights and make sure you're not sentenced to prison or jail. 

Contact Strand Law Offices, LLC today to schedule a simple case assessment with a reliable criminal defense lawyer. We can offer you the personalized legal counsel and vigorous representation you need to avoid incarceration. Our firm proudly serves clients across West Chester, Lancaster County, and surrounding counties throughout Pennsylvania.