Fault Lines
18 February 2019
pay to stay jail

Want to Be Treated like a Human? That Costs Extra

March 15, 2017 (Fault Lines) — On the East Coast, Florida is the go-to place for the strangest stories in criminal law. But here on the left coast, Orange County, California is in a class of its own. In Seal Beach, you can buy your way out of a dangerous stay in the Orange County Jail and enjoy amenities like not getting beat up for being rich, weak or the wrong color. Perks also include hot water, flatscreen TVs, work release, books, DVDs and lack of filth.

Who could ask for more?

The Santa Ana Police Department has a nifty informative web page explaining how they feel your pain:

Serving a commitment in jail is a highly disruptive experience that can negatively affect a person’s career and ability to provide for a family.  This can be especially true for small business owners, commission based workers and sole breadwinners. Working with the Courts, the Santa Ana Police Department is able to provide options to traditional incarceration that help address these and other issues.

The Pay to Stay Program assists persons interested in serving their commitments over a series of weekends, who need a program that permits them to attend work daily or who are simply searching for a less intimidating environment.  Options such as these provide the opportunity to preserve career standing, maintain family support obligations and the ability to serve a commitment in safety and with dignity.

Safety and dignity come with a price tag. If you can come up with the cash a couple weeks in advance and your attorney knows how to set it up is properly connected, you can be living the good life.

For those who think a stay in jail is no picnic either way, the alternative is one of the other Orange County Jail facilities, like the Theo Lacy unit. Federal officials last November pulled a surprise inspection there, as it’s a facility used by ICE to house immigration detainees. They found, among other things:

Of deepest concern, when inspecting the refrigeration units, we observed slimy, foul-smelling lunch meat that appeared to be spoiled.

That’s their deepest concern, but inmates could expect far deeper concerns, such as being housed with a violent repeat offender who is unconcerned with your desire for safety and dignity. Or you could end up spending the remainder of your sentence in the hospital as a reminder of the jail’s commitment to your health and safety.

In Fullerton, California, the pay to stay program is only available if you weren’t convicted of a violent offense (and if you have the money.) Misbehavior will get you bumped back to the general population, where you will surely be welcomed with open arms for your ability to regale other inmates with tales of fresh bologna, hot dogs and other heavenly delights.

While Orange County seems to be the hub for pay to stay options in California, it’s by no means the only program. In Alameda County, the Fremont Police Department has one too. It’s been said that all the little devils are proud as hell, but the unmitigated gall with which they describe their program is a bit too much:

The Fremont Detention Center (Jail) offers a Pay-to-stay program for qualified men and women who have been sentenced to serve time in jail.   With the approval of the sentencing Magistrate, men and women can now serve their jail sentence in our modern, clean and efficiently operated jail facility, which is an alternative to serving time in the Alameda County Jail.

The unnamed jail referred to in the statement is the notoriously filthy and dangerous Santa Rita facility, which has never been a stranger to controversy.

You can’t blame anyone for forking over the money. If you have it, you would try to get yourself into one of these programs as fast as you could. No one in their right mind would prefer to stay in a filthy, dangerous jail eating rotten food.

Like the bail system, pay to stay is a blatant example of a horribly flawed system where the only way to be treated as an almost-human being is via cash; lots of it. Proponents of the bail system (mainly bail bond companies) at least have a few lame arguments for keeping their cash coming. But pay to stay is indefensible. Nobody should have to pay for better conditions nor have it thrown in their face that only the wealthy are allowed a modicum of dignity.

Frankly, it’s a disgrace.

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