No one wants to go to jail, but those who need to serve a criminal sentence in California may choose to make their stay more comfortable if they opt to pay-to-stay in a private jail. These alternatives to traditional incarceration allow you a little more privacy and a little less risk than traditional public jails, and can even provide you a chance to serve your sentence on weekends or during the evening after you return from work. That being said, these programs aren’t cheap and aren’t available to everyone, so it’s a good idea to speak to your lawyer if you’re interested in staying in a private jail.
What is a Pay-to-Stay Jail?
Some cities in California offer the option of private city jails that contract with the government to house inmates. These facilities earn a profit by charging prisoners for their incarceration, which is why they are known as pay-to-stay jails. In exchange for their payments, an inmate can often expect better food, cleaner conditions, cushier cells and more privacy since most inmates do not share cells. Most inmates are also allowed to bring personal effects such as laptops and books.
Generally, these prisons are safer as well as only those sentenced to less than one year in jail can be incarcerated in these facilities and some of these jails do not admit anyone convicted of violent crimes, drug charges or theft offenses. They also often offer less medical risks as inmates have to undergo medical evaluations before being admitted and cannot have tuberculosis or other dangerous contagious diseases. Of course, having a private cell also reduces your potential exposure to violence and disease as well.
One drawback to pay-to-stay jails is that when it comes to your sentence, it’s important to recognize that you cannot get released early in these facilities. In other words, if you have been sentenced to serve 30 days time, you must serve all 30 days.
Also, it’s worth mentioning that many of these facilities are not open to women, so if you are a woman seeking incarceration in a pay-to-stay jail, you need to do a little research first to find out where you can be housed.
How Much do Private Jails in California Cost?
Well, the prices vary greatly based on the specific city jail where you plan to stay. One of the most inexpensive programs is that of the LaVerne jail, which costs $45 a day, whereas one of the most expensive is the Hermosa Beach Police Station jail, which charges $238 a day. On average, you should expect to spend around $110 a day, which is about the same you would to stay in a decent hotel, which can add up quickly, even if you have a good job.
Weekend and Overnight Sentences
While these jails are still supervised and structured, they are also a lot more relaxed. In fact, some facilities allow inmates to only serve time non-continuously. This means some people may serve their time on weekends or after work every day. This will stretch out your total sentence, but allow you to serve the time on your schedule and even go home over the week if you are only serving time on the weekends. For example, an 8-day sentence could be served over the course of 4 weekends or you could spend 90 nights in jail, reporting in after work each day.
As you can imagine, this can be particularly beneficial for those who need to work in order to continue earning a wage.
Getting Into a Pay-to-Stay Program
You can’t just decide you want to serve time in a private jail and just walk in. Instead, the decision is up to the judge in your case. You must meet certain qualification requirements and then have your attorney petition the court on your behalf. If you were convicted of a violent crime, have any felony convictions on your record, are deemed an escape risk or a high risk to the community, you will probably be denied the opportunity to stay in one of these programs. If a judge does not believe you can afford to stay in a pay-to-stay facility, he may not approve you to do so.
San Diego’s Alternative: Work Furlough
It’s worth mentioning that San Diego does not offer private jails, so if you want to stay in one, you’ll need to do so in another county in California, most likely Orange County or Los Angeles. That being said, the San Diego Sheriff’s program offers a similar program known as work furlough. Under this program, you can stay in a private facility (for a daily fee of $42) and attend work every day. Since the San Diego work furlough is government-run by the county, prisoners get good time credits off their sentence, meaning 30 days could be cut down to 15 days.
Like pay-to-stay facilities, not everyone will be able to enter these programs and you’ll need the help of a lawyer to apply.
If you have any questions or need more information about pay-to-stay services or San Diego’s work furlough program, contact attorney Peter M. Liss. Please call (760) 643-4050 to schedule a free initial consultation.