Two men sit in a jail cell

Are There Alternatives to Going to Jail?

Allegheny Attorneys at Law, P.C. Aug. 24, 2021

Imprisonment is among the most common sentencing options for defendants convicted of a crime in Pennsylvania. According to recent data from the Prison Policy Initiative, there are approximately 170,000 unique jail admissions in Pennsylvania each year. The purpose of imprisonment is to deprive the defendant of their liberty and protect society against crime. However, there are still other sentencing alternatives that can help deter, restrain, and rehabilitate an offender.

If you've been convicted of a crime and want to better understand your alternatives to serving time in state prison or county jail, it is crucial that you consult with a knowledgeable Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney for guidance. As the founding attorney of Marc V. Taiani, Esquire and Allegheny Attorneys at Law, P.C., I am dedicated to offering comprehensive legal guidance and reliable representation to individuals seeking alternative sentencing options.

As your legal counsel, I can educate you about the laws and procedures surrounding your unique circumstances, explore all available alternative sentencing options, and determine the best course of action to help you move forward. My firm — Marc V. Taiani, Esquire and Allegheny Attorneys at Law, P.C. — is proud to represent clients throughout Pittsburgh, Oakmont Borough, Aspinwall, Shaler Township, and Fox Chapel, Pennsylvania.

Alternative Sentencing

Alternative sentencing includes a number of different options that can be imposed on a defendant convicted of an offense to help the defendant avoid jail time. The aim of alternative sentencing is to encourage reform while still maintaining a sense of justice for the crime that was committed.

Benefits of Alternative Sentencing

Some of the benefits of alternative sentencing include:

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

  • It allows the defendant to develop valuable skills and learn major life lessons

  • It can have a positive effect on both the offender and their immediate community

  • Through alternative sentencing, the defendant can remain a contributing member of society

  • It reduces the cost of state corrections, thus saving the taxpayers' money

  • It reduces the negative impact of jail or prison experience on the offender's body and mind

  • Through alternative sentencing, defendants can receive adequate addiction treatment and professional counseling

  • Alternative sentencing can help the offender avoid institutionalization.

Types of Alternative Sentencing

Eligibility for alternative sentencing depends on the type, severity, and seriousness of the crime committed and whether or not there were prior arrests or convictions. Some of the alternative sentencing options available in Pennsylvania include:

Diversion Program

A diversion program is an alternative sentencing option to prevent your case from going to trial. Your case will be diverted out of the criminal justice system and placed into a pre-trial status. The case will remain here until the defendant successfully completes the diversion program requirements. Upon completing the diversion program, the criminal charges against you will be dropped. The most common diversion programs in Pennsylvania include:

  • ARD (Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition) Program

  • Summary Diversion Program

  • Probation Without Verdict or PWV (for drug-related offenses)

  • Drug Treatment Court

Additionally, most counties in Western Pennsylvania have a Drug Court that provides reduced drug-related sentencing, Mental Health Court, and Veteran's Court which assist individuals accordingly.

House Arrest

In Pennsylvania, house arrest is often ordered when the offender will cope better in their immediate community, but the offense is too severe for probation. When under house arrest, the offender will wear an electronic monitoring device or a Global Positioning System (GPS) bracelet on their ankle.

The purpose of the monitoring device is to alert the probation department if the defendant steps outside the permissible range. A House Arrest Program is available to eligible defendants convicted of a DUI in Pennsylvania.

Community Service

Community service is an alternative sentencing option intended to benefit the community that was affected by the offense committed by the defendant. The judge may order the offender to:

  • Perform unpaid work in the community

  • Speak at a school or event about the ramifications of committing a crime

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

  • Sponsor or counsel other substance abusers

  • Pay restitution to the injured or harmed parties

Depending on the offense, the court-ordered community service may be as a condition of probation or a separate sentence.


Probation is another sentencing option for an offender that is convicted of a crime instead of prison or jail time. A probation sentence allows the defendant to remain in the community under the watch of a probation officer to ensure that they meet the terms and conditions of their probation. The different types of probation in Pennsylvania include:

  • Informal probation or unsupervised probation

  • Supervised probation

  • Community control

  • Intensive supervision

  • Shock probation

The conditions of probation are guided by Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes Title 42 Section 9763. An experienced attorney can review your unique situation and determine your eligibility.

Work with a Knowledgeable Criminal Defense Team

Criminal convictions in Pennsylvania often have significant immediate and life-long ramifications. However, being convicted of a crime doesn't automatically mean you have to serve time behind bars. While there may be other alternatives to prison, eligibility for these alternative sentencing options often requires the right legal resources on your side. If you are facing criminal allegations or the likelihood of a criminal conviction, you need to speak with a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney immediately for detailed guidance.

At Marc V. Taiani, Esquire, and Allegheny Attorneys at Law, P.C., I have devoted my career to handling criminal cases and representing clients in search of alternative sentencing options. As your legal counsel, I can evaluate and investigate all of the facts of your unique situation, educate you about your sentencing options, and help you pursue the best possible outcome for your case. Using my extensive experience and legal understanding, I will fight vigorously to defend your legal rights and represent you aggressively at every stage of the legal process.

If you’ve been convicted of a crime and want to explore your alternatives to serving time in jail, contact my firm — Marc V. Taiani, Esquire and Allegheny Attorneys at Law, P.C. — today to schedule a simple case assessment. I will do everything I can to help you negotiate a plea deal, including exploring your alternatives to jail time. I'm proud to serve clients across the Pittsburgh area, including Oakmont Borough, Aspinwall, Shaler Township, and Fox Chapel, Pennsylvania.