For $82 a Day, Booking a Cell in a 5-Star Jail

From the NY Times:

SANTA ANA, Calif., April 25 — Anyone convicted of a crime knows a debt to society often must be paid in jail. But a slice of Californians willing to supplement that debt with cash (no personal checks, please) are finding that the time can be almost bearable.

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. Theirs are a clean, quiet, if not exactly recherché alternative to the standard county jails, where the walls are bars, the fellow inmates are hardened and privileges are few.

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.

8 Comments

  1. Whatever the hell happened to “equality before the law”? This is absolutely revolting. They’re not even bothering to pretend anymore, now… As if the poor aren’t already at a monstrous disadvantage in the court room. What’s the next move — will rich people just pay cash money instead of going to jail?

    This society is regressing back into the fucking middle ages, man. This is disgusting.

  2. What Eel said.

    I don’t see why people who have the money shouldn’t have whatever amount it takes to incarcerate them forcibly removed from their bank accounts anyway. Minus money for food though, food you earn by working/learning 9-5, 5 days a week. You don’t work or learn, you don’t eat.

  3. Chris, you seem like a cool guy, but a lot of your readers are nasty, mean people.

    I think the NYT article was very biased. It’s nothing new to let people with money have an easier time paying their debt to society, thus the “$50,000 or five years” penalties we’ve all seen. What do you think happens if you’re too poor to pay the $50,000 fine?

    This program is a middle ground for people who do things that draw mandatory prison terms, but are in situations that don’t really deserve PMITA prison, assuming they can pay for it. It’s no different in spirit than “$50,000 or five years”.

    Or do you really think or justice system works so well that only truly worthless, bad people ever get prison time?

  4. Chris, you seem like a cool guy, but a lot of your readers are nasty, mean people. … are in situations that don’t really deserve PMITA prison, assuming they can pay for it. It’s no different in spirit than “$50,000 or five years”.

    So if you can afford to pay you way out, you somehow don’t t really deserve PMITA prison? Poor people deserves prison, rich ones don’t? Jeeeebus.

    Chris, you seem like a cool guy, but one of your readers is nasty, mean and retarded.

  5. Or do you really think or justice system works so well that only truly worthless, bad people ever get prison time?

    So rather than attempt to fix the justice system, we should make the punishment softer for everyone, just in case that person is innocent and/or ‘nice’?

  6. We have what amounts to an evil, retarded justice system. Fix it? Sure.

    But I’d rather muzzle a rabid dog BEFORE I figure out how to cure (or shoot) him.

    SO many people get PMITA prison (thanks for understanding that acronym, we must have some other Office Space fans here) who, even if they might in principle deserve it, are really, really messed up by it, and these people are then expected to “clean up thier act” and rejoin society. And coach your kids little-league class.

    I’m being overly dramatic, there, but I hope you get my point. I’m not being overly bleeding-heart, I’m trying to watch out for myself, who has to LIVE in this society.

    To put it another way, PMITA prison is like an atom bomb, when some people really just need a good slap. The trouble is how to find a way to “slap” rich and poor alike. This country-club prison is a slap that works for richer people but not very poor people. (I’d venture that lots of people could afford $82/day, rather than PMITA prison, if it was really an issue for them).

    If you can’t come up with an equitable solution for giving a light slap to poor people, does that mean you trade that unfairness for the unfairness of putting a kid who got caught with some weed in the car PMITA prison time?

    How about a guy like any of us who defends his home with a shotgun, without firing a shot, but happens to live in the wrong community? I know we have some firearm-using people here, and surely you don’t think you deserve PMITA prison. Think about that, a little bit.

    Oh, and sorry for the ad-hominem, guys. I had a bad day.

  7. I take your point about PMITA doing harm to those who don’t deserve it, but I can’t see any way that the state of a prisoner’s bank account should enter into their circumstances on the inside. The harshness of prison time is dependant on the crime and the intention, and nothing else, surely?

    How about a guy like any of us who defends his home with a shotgun, without firing a shot, but happens to live in the wrong community? I know we have some firearm-using people here, and surely you don’t think you deserve PMITA prison. Think about that, a little bit.

    The trouble with this is that the guy defending his home with a shotgun would be more likely to be the guy who’s got no disposable cash. Poor people, poor neighbourhood, higher rate of having to defend yourself in your own home. The scumbag over the road who uses his shotgun to show that he’s serious about his protection racket is likely to have plenty of cash. Buying your way out of PMITA seems to me to be an option for the wrong people more often than not.

    Maybe it’s a little different over here in the UK – we’re so short of prison space* that you can get away with doing the same thing over and over and over again before you get banged up, which (I assume) tends to keep out those who would be more deserving of a country-club, ie, those whose hands were forced or had a single lapse of judgement.

    *There’re prisoners indefinately incarcerated in police station holdings cells, it’s that bad.

    Not having PMITA prison is the only real solution, putting the worst (morally) offenders in there and the least in the easy-life ones is the next best thing, and buying your way out is no solution at all. IMHO, of course.

    I’d be interested to know what proportion each type of crime makes up in the country-clubs vs PMITA.

    Hmmm, I’m rambling again. Must be nearly home-time!

  8. “…I can’t see any way that the state of a prisoner’s bank account should enter into their circumstances on the inside. — Schmoo

    Exactly.

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