An attractive alternative to a jail term is electronically monitored "house arrest," or home detention. Authority for the home detention program can be found in Pen C § 1203.016:
(a) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the board of supervisors of any county may authorize the correctional administrator ... to offer a program under which minimum security inmates and low-risk offenders committed to a county jail ... may voluntarily participate in a home detention program during their sentence in lieu of confinement in the county jail.
Penal Code § 2900.5(f) further provides for credit for time served towards any mandatory minimum jail sentence.
Electronic house detention commonly involves periodic telephone checks, wearing a bracelet or anklet transmitter, or both telephone checks and wearing a transmitter. The restriction is not necessarily 24 hours a day, however:
The correctional administrator may permit home detention program participants to seek and retain employment in the community, attend psychological counseling sessions or educational or vocational training classes, or seek medical and dental assistance. [Pen C § 1203.016(f)].
Time is also usually given the detainee to shop for food, pick up cleaning, and pursue other necessary chores.
Until recently, a sentencing court could, with the defendant's consent, order home detention. Currently, however, the court is limited to restricting or denying participation in the program; approval of participation in the program in lieu of jail rests with the sheriff or other county correctional administrator. In practice, however, and by statutory mandate, a sentencing judge's recommendation is usually given considerable deference.
(e) The court may recommend or refer a person to the correctional administrator for consideration for placement in the home detention program. The recommendation or referral of the court shall be given great weight in the determination of acceptance or denial.
Home detention programs require the defendant to pay a private company to install and monitor the electronic equipment used to ensure his or her restriction to the home. Although the enabling statute says that "Inability to pay all or a portion of the program fees shall not preclude participation in the program" [Pen C § 1203.016(g)], the simple fact is that the companies supplying the equipment are in the business to make a profit and few counties are in a position to provide the funds.