Pay-To-Stay Jails Offer Safer Environment For Inmates

By Emma Koch - NBC33

August 13, 2013 Updated Aug 13, 2013 at 4:42 PM EDT

UNITED STATES (NBC33) – It’s his first time doing any time behind bars and he’s there because he was convicted of vehicular manslaughter while under the influence.

But the 27-year-old Robert, not his real name, and his family paid $72,000 so that he would spend his sentence in the so-called pay-to-stay jail in Seal Beach. For at least two years, Robert will serve his sentence in a jail where all inmates pay and have to pass an entrance assessment so there are no gangs, no violence, nothing to fear.

Robert says he’d rather spend money and be safer in the end. The money also gets Robert a flat screen TV, computer, media center and an environment that is pristine by comparison to county and state lockups.

Seal Beach was losing $700,000 a year to run its 30-bed jail until it ran ads looking for paying customers and found plenty. Now the jail makes about $400,000 to $500,000 just based off this program.

Robert says it is still a cage and since he took a life, he is still locked up with what torments him.

“Regardless of how nice or safe a place is, you’re always locked in your own head,” Robert said.

Robert admits that he’s doing easier time because of a stacked deck. He says it’s always stacked one way or another and some people just have better access to resources.

This concept is exactly what critics of pay-to-stay jails are saying.

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