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Interesting Findings And World Unfolding Through My Eyes.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Pay For Staying In Jail?

Anyone convicted of a crime knows a debt to society often must be paid in jail. But a slice of Californians willing to supplement that debt with cash (no personal checks, please) are finding that the time can be almost bearable.

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 recherché alternative to the standard county jails, where the walls are bars, the fellow inmates are hardened and privileges are few. . . .

“It seems to be to be a little unfair,” said Mike Jackson, the training manager of the National Sheriff’s Association. “Two people come in, have the same offense, and the guy who has money gets to pay to stay and the other doesn’t. The system is supposed to be equitable.”

But cities argue that the paying inmates generate cash, often hundreds of thousands of dollars a year — enabling them to better afford their other taxpayer-financed operations — and are generally easy to deal with. . . .

What should we think about these "upgrades"? Certainly, one could hardly blame one convicted of a "relatively minor" crime for wanting to take advantage of this option. And, these upgrades might well provide a useful source of revenue. I wonder, though: Why stop at $82.00 per day? I would think that corrections agencies could fill their "upgrade" cells while charging substantially more. What if it turned out that many of those convicted of "relatively minor" offenses were willing to pay, say, $1000 per day -- or $10,000 per day -- not to avoid the loss of physical freedom associated with punishment, but to avoid the non-trivial risks of being harmed by other inmates? What would this willingness tell us about the extent to which we are failing in (what I take to be) our obligation to protect those we incarcerate?

I assume we don't want to say that these risks are "part of" the punishment that is justly imposed upon those convicted of crimes. So, if someone buys their way out of those risks, it is not -- is it? -- that they are buying their way out of duly imposed "punishment." But, once we acknowledge that there are non-essential, unpleasant incidents of punishment that we *are* willing to allow people to pay to avoid, then how do we justify imposing those incidents on those who cannot (or simply do not) pay to avoid them

Posted by Ajay :: 6:03 PM :: 0 comments

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