In justice and law, house arrest (also called home confinement, home detention, or, in modern times, electronic monitoring) is a measure by which a person is confined by the authorities to their residence. Only those with a house are allowed to be sentenced to arrest in their residence. Travel is usually restricted, if allowed at all. House arrest is an alternative to being in a prison while pre-trial or sentenced.
While house arrest can be applied to criminal cases when prison does not seem an appropriate measure, the term is often applied to the use of house confinement as a measure of repression by authoritarian governments against political dissidents. In that case, typically, the person under house arrest does not have access to any means of communication. If electronic communication is allowed, conversations will most likely be monitored. With some electronic monitoring units, the conversations of prisoners can be directly monitored via the unit itself.
Judges have imposed sentences of home confinement, as an alternative to prison, as far back as the 17th century. Galileo was confined to his home following his infamous trial in 1633. Political authorities have often confined leaders to house arrest who were deposed in a coup d'état, but this method was not widely used to confine numerous common criminals.
This method did not become a widespread alternative to imprisonment in the United States and other western countries until the late 20th century, when newly designed electronic monitoring devices made it inexpensive and easy to manage by corrections authorities. Although Boston was using house arrest for a variety of arrangements, the first-ever court sentence of house arrest with an electronic bracelet was in 1983.