handcuffed arrested man

There Are Alternatives to Going to Jail

Brazil Clark, PLLC March 1, 2022

Defendants who are convicted of a crime in Tennessee are often punished through incarceration in county jail or state prison. The primary aim of imprisonment is protecting the immediate society against criminal offenses while depriving the defendant of their freedom. However, apart from institutionalization, imprisonment also exposes the defendant's mental and physical health to the adverse consequences of jail or prison. Thankfully, there are other alternatives to going to jail that can help rehabilitate, reform, or caution the offender properly.

If you've been convicted of a crime and want to understand your alternative sentencing options, consulting with experienced Tennessee criminal defense attorneys is imperative for proper guidance. The attorneys at Brazil Clark, PLLC, are dedicated to offering knowledgeable legal counsel and advocacy to clients in alternative sentencing matters. Attorney Frank Brazil and his legal team can help you understand the statutes surrounding your unique circumstances and explore your possible alternative to incarceration. The firm proudly serves clients across Nashville and Rutherford County, Tennessee.

Understanding Alternative Sentencing

Alternative sentencing includes different forms of punishment that a court can impose on an offender who has been convicted of a crime, apart from incarceration in prison, jail, or the death penalty. The purpose of the alternative sentencing option is to encourage reform while penalizing the convicted defendant appropriately.

What Are the Benefits of Alternative Sentencing?

However, the state, community, and defendant can benefit from alternative sentencing. Some of the benefits include:

  • It encourages reform and allows offenders to learn essential life lessons and skills.

  • It increases the possibility of successful recovery.

  • It helps prevent possible risks of relapse.

  • It helps mitigate the negative implications of incarceration in jail or prison on the mental and physical health of the defendant.

  • It serves as a substitute to confinement in county jail or state prison.

  • It ensures the efficient use of county jails and state prison spaces.

  • It provides defendants with improved access to professional counseling, support, and safe addiction treatment during their rehabilitation period.

  • It helps the defendant to avoid institutionalization.

  • It reduces the community cost of operating prisons and jails, thus saving taxpayers' money.

Rather than sentencing the defendant to county jail or state prison, the Tennessee courts can sentence them to a diversion program, probation, community service, or house arrest. A knowledgeable lawyer can review all of the facts of your case and help you understand the different sentencing alternatives that are available to you.

Types of Alternative Sentencing

Furthermore, eligibility for alternative sentencing in Tennessee often depends on the offender's criminal history/record, the type, severity, and seriousness of the crime committed. Here are some of the available alternatives to going to jail in Tennessee:

Diversion Programs

A judicial or pretrial diversion program may be available to eligible defendants in Tennessee to help them avoid a conviction, possible incarceration, or a criminal record, even if they committed the crime. Diversions may be available to certain first-time offenders ("qualified defendant") who meet the following requirement:

  • The defendant has not previously been granted pretrial diversion.

  • The defendant does not have any prior conviction for a Class A or B misdemeanor or any class of felony.

  • The defendant is not facing charges for a felony offense, DUI, misdemeanor sexual offense, conspiracy, or criminal attempt to commit any Class E felony sexual offense, child abuse, neglect or endangerment, and domestic assault.

House Arrest

House arrest or electronic monitoring is an alternative sentencing option that involves fitting the defendant with an electronic monitoring device – ankle bracelet – to monitor their whereabouts. In Tennessee, the court may order house arrest if the judge believes that the offender will rehabilitate better if allowed to stay within their immediate community. The ankle bracelet will transmit continuous signals to a central monitoring system. Should the defendant step out of the permissible range, the ankle bracelet will notify the probation department.

Community Service

Additionally, the Tennessee courts may sentence an offender to court-ordered community service as a substitute to imprisonment. The purpose of community service, as a means of correction, is to benefit the immediate community that was harmed by the wrongful actions of the defendant. Below are some common examples of court-ordered community service:

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

  • Paying restitution to the harmed parties

  • Performing voluntary or unpaid work within the community

  • Speaking at an event or school about the consequences of committing an offense

  • Counseling or sponsoring other substance abusers

  • Handling treatment programs or meetings at the facility


In Tennessee, probation can be an alternative to imprisonment – or after serving prison or jail time. Typically, probation lasts anywhere between one and three years. Depending on the type and severity of the crime committed, a defendant shall be eligible for probation in Tennessee if the sentence imposed upon them is ten (10) years or less.

Additionally, probation may be supervised or unsupervised. Whenever a court sentences a defendant to supervised probation, the court shall specify the probation terms, such as:

  • obeying all laws and rules,

  • meeting with the probation officer regularly or as scheduled;

  • appearing at any scheduled court appearances,

  • performing community services,

  • not traveling out of state without seeking the probation officer's permission;

  • submitting to random drug or alcohol testing,

  • paying fines or restitution to victims,

  • avoid visiting certain people and places;

  • refraining from taking excessive alcohol or controlled substances,

  • avoid possessing firearms or other dangerous weapons

Defendants are expected to comply with the specific rules and provisions of their probation. Violating one or more probation terms may result in additional criminal charges or completing your criminal sentence in prison.

However, there are still several other sentencing alternatives available to defendants in Tennessee. A knowledgeable attorney can evaluate all of the surrounding facts of your case and help determine the appropriate alternative to incarceration for your unique circumstances.

How an Experienced Attorney Can Help

Being convicted of a crime in Tennessee can have severe, immediate, and long-term consequences on your quality of life, personal reputation, and future opportunities. Regardless, this doesn't necessarily mean you have to go to jail. Fortunately, other alternative sentencing options allow you to serve your punishments without imprisonment. A knowledgeable criminal defense attorney can review your possible legal options and determine the best course of action.

The attorneys at Brazil Clark, PLLC, have devoted their careers to providing experienced legal services and representing clients who are in search of alternatives to going to jail. As your legal counsel, they can investigate every last detail of your case, enlighten you about the different sentencing options available to you, and determine your eligibility. Using their in-depth legal understanding of the Tennessee Sentencing guidelines, Attorney Frank Brazil and his trusted team can seek to protect your best interests and help you achieve the best available outcome for your unique situation.

Don't gamble with your future. Contact Brazil Clark, PLLC, to schedule a simple case assessment with skilled criminal defense attorneys. The firm proudly serves clients across Nashville and Rutherford County, Tennessee.