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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