Convicted criminals can reserve their spot in a Southern California private jail for as little as $25/night. This has sparked controversy over what the LA Times calls a “two-tiered justice system” that allows those convicted of serious crimes to “buy their way into safer and more comfortable jails”.
On average, 87% of pay-to-stay tenants are non-violent offenders, largely California DUI arrests. The other 13% includes those convicted of violence, threats of violence, or sex crimes according to data collected by the LA Times and the Marshall Group.
Private jails have their tenants’ full support. Those occupying and running the private jails have claimed that the private jails provide a safe alternative to county jail, a place where the young, old, rich, and famous are susceptible to mental and physical abuse.
Shane Sparks, a hip-hop choreographer convicted for sexual intercourse with a minor under the age of 16, compared his time spent in jail to a “retreat”. Amenities in the cells include flat-screen TVs, new beds, choice of bedding, and freedom to go to work while being incarcerated.
“While this may seem offensive on its face, the truth is that many criminal defenders are ‘soft,’ meaning that putting them into Los Angeles or Orange County Jail would subject them to all manners of physical, psychological, and emotional trauma. The truth is that our criminal recidivism rates are ridiculous, about 70% depending on who’s study you read. Unless someone goes into a jail environment determined to use it as an opportunity to turn their life around, all we are doing is sending people to a graduate school for crime” says `Darren Kavinoky.
Victims have heavily scrutinized the pay-to-stay options claiming a lack of rehabilitation due to the aforementioned trauma factor being eliminated.
Upon finding out his assailant would be attending private jail due to being “afraid of the general population”, Tanner Mester, a stabbing victim, called these fears “part of jail” and “what makes you not want to go back”.
Multiple victims have stepped up to speak out against the pay-to-stay option for violent criminals, mainly siding with Mester, citing a lack of rehabilitation. Kavinoky adds that “County jail is both for people who have been convicted of misdemeanor crimes and for all people who are awaiting trial for all types of crimes from murder to sidewalk spitting. This means we’re taking someone who’s been pulled over for 1st offense DUI and housing them with someone who’s been charged with murder. Expecting someone who has been pulled for 1st offense DUI to come out ‘new and improved’ in this instance is simply wrong. It’s like rearranging the deck chairs on a ship called the ‘Titanic’. You can feng shui those deck chairs all you want but if you don’t deal with your iceberg problem that ship is going down.”