I'm of two minds about a 'pay-to-stay' plan being offered by some California jails.
In what is commonly called “pay-to-stay” or “private jail,” a constellation of small city jails — at least 26 of them in Los Angeles and Orange counties — open their doors to defendants who can afford the option. But what started out as an antidote to overcrowding has evolved into a two-tiered justice system that allows people convicted of serious crimes to buy their way into safer and more comfortable jail stays.
An analysis by the Marshall Project and the Los Angeles Times of the more than 3,500 people who served time in Southern California’s pay-to-stay programs from 2011 through 2015 found more than 160 participants who had been convicted of serious crimes including assault, robbery, domestic violence, battery, sexual assault, sexual abuse of children and possession of child pornography.
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Pay-to-stay jail assignments make up only a small fraction of the tens of thousands of inmates sent to detention centers in Southern California each year. But allowing some defendants to avoid the region’s notoriously dangerous county jails has long rankled some in law enforcement who believe it runs counter to the spirit of equal justice.
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“The whole criminal justice system is becoming more and more about: How much money do you have? Can you afford better attorneys? Can you afford to pay for a nicer place to stay?” said John Eum, a detective with the Los Angeles Police Department ...
Pay to stay is not cheap. From 2011 through 2015, the average cost of a stay — which can last from just one day to more than a year — was $1,756.
The most expensive stay, according to jail records, was $72,050, paid by a man responsible for a drunken freeway crash that killed one of his passengers.
There's more at the link.
I can see the disadvantages of such a program, particularly the avoidance of an unpleasant jail experience - which is part of the deterrent effect supposed to be part and parcel of prison sentences.
On the other hand, I can see some older, less physically fit, or otherwise vulnerable individuals being actually safer in such places, because they'd undoubtedly be preyed upon by 'regular' criminals in a normal facility. That can produce security issues and threats that spread much wider than the individuals involved. I wrote about some of those incidents in my memoir of prison chaplaincy.
This is a conundrum that doesn't have an easy answer. I don't like the fact that it exists . . . but it may serve a valid purpose for some few inmates. Right or wrong? Let us know your views in Comments.