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Confinement to one's home or another specified location instead of incarceration in a jail or prison.
House arrest has been used since ancient times as an alternative to criminal imprisonment, often imposed upon people who either were too powerful or too influential to be placed in an actual prison. Hereditary rulers, religious leaders, and political figures, whose imprisonment might spur a revolt by loyalists, would be confined to their homes where they could live comfortably and safely but without any influence. House arrest does not always lessen its victims' influence, however. Aung San Suu Kyi, a political leader from Myanmar, was placed under house arrest from 1989 to 1995, and again, from 2000 to 2002, by the nation's military junta. On both occasions the international community successfully exerted pressure on the government to release Suu Kyi, a peace activist and Nobel laureate.
The term house arrest can also refer to electronic monitoring programs in which a convicted criminal is sentenced to home confinement instead of prison, for a specified period. The criminal wears an electronic ankle bracelet (for which he usually bears maintenance costs) that monitors movement and sends a signal to a central computer if the house arrest is violated. Examples of crimes that could warrant house arrest include white-collar crimes such as Fraud or Embezzlement. This type of sentence can be a cost-effective way of punishing criminals who pose no threat to others and thus do not need to be imprisoned at the state's expense.