Pay-to-Stay Imprisonment

“The California prison system,” as reported by The New York Times today, is “severely overcrowded, teeming with violence and infectious diseases and so dysfunctional that much of it is under court supervision.” As such, it is a system “that anyone with the slightest means would most likely pay to avoid.”
Luckily for them, they can now do so.

They can pay-to-stay:

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.

For fees ranging from $82 to $127 per night, inmates can apparently stay for up to four years. The NYTimes reports on one “prisoner,” in particular, “who in her oversize orange T-shirt and flip-flops looked more like a contestant on The Real World than an inmate.” They quote her: “I haven’t had a problem with any of the other girls. They give me shampoo.”
In what is surely the set-up for a new blockbuster comedy – starring Jim Carrey – we even learn that many pay-to-stay convicts are actually “granted work furlough, enabling them to do most of their time on the job, returning to the jail simply to go to bed.”
There are obvious – and entirely justified – complaints: for instance that this system simply transforms the Californian penal system into a new kind of sociological adventure tourism, favoring those residents of the state with enough disposable income to avoid showering alongside gangs of neo-Nazis – totally violating any concept of punishment or rehabilitation in the process.
At the same time, though, sociological adventure tourism opens up a fascinating range of future business models that we would do well to think about, and prepare for, before they come to pass.
Pay-to-stay loans, for instance, or jail’otels – or even some weird outer Hollywood casting agency where you can try out for substitute imprisonment on behalf of paying clients. Should you be accepted, they’ll take care of your student loans and buy your family weekly pizzas. Though I’m sure you can already be hired to go to jail.
Read more at The New York Times.

7 thoughts on “Pay-to-Stay Imprisonment”

  1. Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson is a true prophecy, I tell you… Pay 40 Reagans to stay at The Hoosegow(tm) instead of The Clink(tm).

    Hell, we’re already seeing General Bob’s Army.

  2. In System of the World by Neal Stephenson, there’s a lot of description of 18th Century Newgate Prison in London, where wealthy prisoners were expected to pay for better “accomodation”.

    The tragedies of our justice system feel like they’re going both more futuristic and anachronistic.

  3. A lot of the people in California’s prisons are in for victimless crimes like drug possession. We’re imprisoning them for no good reason other than enriching our state’s prison guard unions.

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