The NYT reveals that in California, you can pay to go to a ‘nice’ jail.
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 recherchÃ© 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 the 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.
â€œI am aware that this is considered to be a five-star Hilton,â€ said Nicole Brockett, 22, who was recently booked into one of the jails, here in Orange County about 30 miles southeast of Los Angeles, and paid $82 a day to complete a 21-day sentence for a drunken driving conviction.Â
The inequity here is pretty stark. Indeed, if you can buy yourself a lighter punishment, then presumably the judge should take that into account when setting the sentence. On the other hand, regular jails often have nasty effects on inmates that courts don’t factor into their sentences. Prison rape (so often satirised in Hollywood movies – why?) is one of the worst. If the advent of upmarketÂ jails can reduce the total number of assaults that take place behind bars, that’d be a powerful reason for allowing them.