Man in prison

Are There Alternatives to Going to Jail?

Law Offices of Fisher Wise March 20, 2023

If you’ve been arrested for a crime, you're likely nervous about the penalties you’ll face if convicted. And, one of the biggest questions you may have is whether you’ll go to jail—and you’d be right to worry. Tennessee has one of the highest incarceration rates in the country, and in 2022, there were nearly 25,000 people in jail, per a report by the Tennessee Department of Correction. The good news is for some people, there are alternatives to incarceration, and by working with a skilled criminal defense attorney, you can learn about these options and find out whether you’d be eligible.  

Contact me at the Law Offices of Fisher Wise today to get started. My offices are in Chattanooga, Tennessee, but I can help those throughout the region, including Marion County, Rhea County, and Sequatchie County. 

Alternative Sentencing  

Alternative sentencing refers to any criminal punishment that’s not incarceration. The actual alternatives that are available to you will be highly dependent on the specifics of your case. This could include the crime you’ve been accused of, whether you’re a repeat offender, your age, the circumstances of the crime itself, whether there were other crimes committed concurrently, and perhaps most importantly—the quality of your legal defense. When you work with an experienced attorney, you can often dramatically increase your chances of being granted an alternative sentence.  


Diversion programs are a common alternative to jail and can include treatment programs if drugs or alcohol addiction is involved, rehabilitation programs, or other kinds of court-mandated programs. All of these programs “divert” your case out of the criminal justice system and instead seek to educate, treat, and rehabilitate the defendant in hopes of reducing future recidivism. This option is most likely to be open to those who are charged with a misdemeanor crime or in some cases, a non-violent felony. 

House Arrest  

House arrest is another common alternative to spending time in jail. Essentially, if you’re convicted of a crime but allowed to “serve” your time under house arrest, you’ll be required to stay within a predetermined area (usually your home and occasionally your place of employment). To ensure you comply with these regulations, courts will often require your location to be electronically tracked, and this is typically done using an ankle monitor. If the monitor detects that you’ve moved outside the designated area, you’ll be in violation of the court order and may be forced to go to jail. Like diversion programs, house arrest is typically reserved for lower-level offenders who are not an immediate risk to those around them. A judge may also consider granting house arrest for someone who cares for an aging or infirm family member. 

Community Service  

Community service hours are often used in conjunction with other minor punishments like fines and are usually available to juveniles, first-time offenders, or those convicted of misdemeanors. Through this program, individuals are required to complete a certain number of community service hours, be it cleaning up the side of a highway, volunteering for a local nonprofit, or something directly related to the crime. For example, if the charges were drug-related, you may be required to speak at school events about the dangers and risks of drug use. 


Lastly, you may be granted probation, which can be supervised or unsupervised depending on how big a flight risk you are. Probation can be granted for both misdemeanor and felony charges and is typically connected to a deferred sentence, meaning if you successfully complete your period of probation, you won’t be required to spend time in jail.  

Protect Your Freedom  

If you’re in the Chattanooga, Tennessee, area and have recently been arrested on criminal charges, you need to reach out to an attorney right away to start working on your defense. For many people, there are alternatives to jail available, but you need to act quickly. Call me at the Law Offices of Fisher Wise to set up a consultation and learn about your options.