FREEMONT, CA – Some prisoners at one California jail will now have the option to pay their way into a more comfortable stay, community news source the Argus reports.
The Fremont Police Department is now offering its inmates a “pay to stay” option. For a one-time fee of $45 plus $155 a night, prisoners serving short sentences on lesser charges can stay in a smaller facility while avoiding county jails.
“It’s still a jail; there’s no special treatment,” Lt. Mark Devine, a Fremont police official who oversees the program, told Chris De Benedetti of the Argus. “They get the same cot, blanket and food as anybody in the county jail, except that our jail is smaller, quieter and away from the county jail population.”
The program has been criticized by the American Civil Liberties Union as a “jail for the rich,” KQED news reports. However, it’s been defended by its creators as a way for the city of Fremont to earn some much-needed money. Devine told the Argus that the city stands to earn an annual profit of $244,000 if just 16 prisoners spend two nights per week in the “smaller, quieter” facility each year.
Three cities in the state of California have filed for bankruptcy during the last few years. Los Angeles could be two to three years away from bankruptcy as well, Daniel Pellissler, the president of California Pension Reform, a political organization dedicated to fixing California’s pension crisis, recently said.
Fremont is not the first city in California to experiment with a “pay to stay” inmate program. A dozen or so already existed in 2007 the state, according to a report by The New York Times. Although the programs have been around for quite some time, they started to receive negative attention after one jail in Fullerton, Calif., reportedly began offering phone and Internet access to an inmate.
California’s 33 adult prison facilities held 144,000 inmates in 2011, according to the Public Policy institute of California. The average cost to incarcerate an inmate in the state came in at about $47,000 per year during 2008 and 2009, according to California’s non-partisan fiscal and policy adviser, the Legislative Analyst’s Office.