Self-Pay Jail for Those Who Can Afford It

The New York Times reports on self-pay county jails in California, where for a fee of around $100 a day, inmates can get special accomodations and privileges.

For offenders whose crimes are usually relatively minor (carjackers should not bother) and whose bank accounts remain lofty, a dozen or so city jails across the state offer pay-to-stay upgrades.

... Many of the self-pay jails operate like secret velvet-roped nightclubs of the corrections world. You have to be in the know to even apply for entry, and even if the court approves your sentence there, jail administrators can operate like bouncers, rejecting anyone they wish.

As for amenities,


For roughly $75 to $127 a day, these convicts — who are known in the self-pay parlance as “clients” — get a small cell behind a regular door, distance of some amplitude from violent offenders and, in some cases, the right to bring an iPod or computer on which to compose a novel, or perhaps a song.

Many of the overnighters are granted work furlough, enabling them to do most of their time on the job, returning to the jail simply to go to bed (often following a strip search, which granted is not so five-star).

The counties defend the jails on grounds that they increase revenue for other programs. It seems unfair and elitist to me.

The spokesperson for CSI, the private jail company that provides many self-pay jails says:

“The benefits are that you are isolated and you don’t have to expose yourself to the traditional county system,” said Christine Parker, a spokeswoman for CSI, a national provider of jails that runs three in Orange County with pay-to-stay programs. “You can avoid gang issues. You are restricted in terms of the number of people you are encountering and they are a similar persuasion such as you.”

A similar persuasion? That's pretty offensive.

But, as the article says, there's no doubt that even in the self-pay facilities, inmates know they are in jail.

The self-pay jails are not to be confused with Canyon Ranch.

The cells at Santa Ana are roughly the size of a custodial closet, and share its smell and ambience. Most have little more than a pink bottle of jail-issue moisturizer and a book borrowed from the day room. Lockdown can occur for hours at a time, and just feet away other prisoners sit with their faces pressed against cell windows, looking menacing.

Jail is no walk in the park for anyone, but this seems pretty discriminatory to me. The counties at least ought to use the fees generated to improve conditions at the non-pay jails.

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    A bad sign...... (5.00 / 1) (#7)
    by kdog on Sun Apr 29, 2007 at 09:49:47 AM EST
    Sounds like a legal bribe to me.

    Liberty and Justice for All?  We're slippin...were slippin hardcore.

    Wow (5.00 / 1) (#8)
    by scarshapedstar on Sun Apr 29, 2007 at 10:54:40 AM EST
    The counties defend the jails on grounds that they increase revenue for other programs.

    Since when is this a "defense"? If you could simply pay the court ten million dollars in lieu of a criminal trial, I'm sure that would raise revenues too, but that's not the f*cking point of a justice system, now is it?

    And why is it that this argument ("More money = better than!") never applies to things like legalized and taxable marijuana and prostitution? Only to pain. The government doesn't want to get in on your happiness. But if they can make a buck off seeing you suffer, then... well, just look what happens.

    Since... (none / 0) (#11)
    by Deconstructionist on Mon Apr 30, 2007 at 07:54:22 AM EST
    human beings construted the concept of weallth. That doesn't make it right, of course.

    This has been going on for a long time (5.00 / 2) (#9)
    by Freewill on Sun Apr 29, 2007 at 10:58:45 AM EST
    I have worked in a State Prison for the last 16 years, there have always been separation between privileged and commoners.

    The courts have always been that way as well. If a wealthy, prospective, contributor to a city's dreams comes before the bench and promises to help fund this or that, financial judgements seem more predominant. In many cases, behind the scenes campaign promises are made. There are a lot of elected prosecutors, tough-on-crime legislators, and judges who need financial help for the campaign trail.

    On rare occasions the media will pick up on some of these issues, in most cases the public never hears the first peep.

    We, in the U.S. have a socially divided way to enforce the law. It has always been that way and it will continue to be that way in the future. It is dead wrong and promotes bad behavior.

    In many areas where politicians promote the private sector prisons over state run, tax funded prisons, stories like these are quickly diminished by those legislators because it reflects poorly on the private run sector and takes potential campaign donors away. State run prisons can never contribute to campaigns.

    Stories like this story about the Pay-for-Stay prison spring up here and there. Once the editor starts receiving angry phone calls from wealthy donors the stories start to simply recede from the spot light and business resumes as normal.

    This is a sad and sorry justice system.

    So.... (none / 0) (#1)
    by TomStewart on Sat Apr 28, 2007 at 10:11:30 PM EST
    They're using non-stolen money, I assume?

    Privatised criminals? :-) n/t (none / 0) (#2)
    by dutchfox on Sun Apr 29, 2007 at 12:33:55 AM EST

    If the Supreme court has declared (none / 0) (#3)
    by dkmich on Sun Apr 29, 2007 at 07:34:29 AM EST
    money to be (free) speech and I don't have any, am I being denied my freedom of speech?  It is so amazing how OK it is to discriminate against poor people while bestowing rights on money and rich people that no one else has.  

    AND not to mention what a profit incentive (none / 0) (#4)
    by dkmich on Sun Apr 29, 2007 at 07:43:50 AM EST
    it provides for jails to make sure staying with the general prison population is as bad as it can be.  What is the matter with this country?  

    This is Wrong. (none / 0) (#6)
    by lilybart on Sun Apr 29, 2007 at 09:22:42 AM EST
    Just wrong on so many levels.

    If jail is too terrible for non-violent white offenders, then we should change the way we jail people. NOT allow the wealthy to escape privitized jail hell.

    wrong wrong wrong

    The "rich" pay more (none / 0) (#10)
    by Abdul Abulbul Amir on Mon Apr 30, 2007 at 07:31:16 AM EST

    In this system, the rich pay more, while the poor and middleclass taxpayers pay less.  Whats not to like?

    California is a strange place... (none / 0) (#12)
    by tommythegun on Sun May 06, 2007 at 03:08:55 PM EST
    Our Golden state is a strange place as far as corrections is concerned.  The corrections system is a little empire here, filled to more than double capacity with over 170,000 inmates.  As for the "persuasion" thing, it's pretty well tacitly accepted within the system.  The populations break down by race and county: whites, blacks, northern and southern mexicans.  In county jails, they won't house people of different races together anyways, and those lines are respected up through the mainline system.

    Is it right?  Fair?  No, but it is the system here, the result of three strikes and the war on drugs.

    pay jail (none / 0) (#13)
    by daninanny 121905 on Mon Jun 04, 2007 at 08:02:29 AM EST
    America is coming full circle. In colonial days you could pay someone to do jail time, or even military service for you. Watch out, reinstituting slavery may be next.

    pay jail (none / 0) (#14)
    by Deathofinnocence on Fri Aug 21, 2009 at 03:32:19 PM EST
    Does anyone have any 1st hand experience of a pay jail in Orange County CA?  Is there privacy, just another prison, rough guards,can you work on a computer, able to have a cell phone, how do you continue medical treatment if under the care of a doctor.  What if you were furloughed, can you work in a job that requires you to work at least 10-12hours a day?  Any and all infomation, including location, costs, privileges and non-privileges.  What are the cons as opposed to the PRO. Real life experience from past immates and employees would be appreciated.