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Pay to Stay

Something else to consider this upcoming election when you vote on three separate law and order initiatives. I’ve already explained to the best of my ability the reasons I oppose Propositions 6 and 9. I support Proposition 5, the attempt to improve the mechanizations of imprisonment when the convicted are non-violent drug addicts. Drug addiction is a mental disorder, nothing more or less. It’s better to help people overcome addiction so they can get out of the system and do something with their lives than to keep sending them back into the system. It’s cheaper than repeatedly imprisoning them and it’s obviously more humane. It also challenges a status quo which sees harsher penalties for possession of crack (minority) over powder cocaine (white) and the delusional society that airs commercials for alcohol dependency treatment in resort getaways during episodes of COPS where people strung out on Meth get tazered.

Photo by Monica Almeida, courtesy of the New York Times.

But it gets worse, as I’ve just learned after reading another cry from the dark. Prison Photography just blew my mind yet again. I had never heard of the “pay to stay” program where non-violent offenders can apply through the courts to, for a moderate daily fee, upgrade their prison experience to a kinder, gentler, whiter and safer one. The New York Times breaks this down in a succinct manner with a comparison price chart (circa 2007); more stunning is the City of Santa Ana official web page where prospective “clients” can learn more about skirting the system. You think the best way to deal with crime is longer sentences, more severe punishment, bring back the labor camps? You think that rehabilitative measures are too soft, we’re just letting murderers and rapist escape their just desserts? Really?

  1. ramarydee
    October 29, 2008 at 12:30 am

    Big ups to you and all those who are voting no on 6 and 9.

  2. j.
    October 29, 2008 at 1:53 pm

    Ironically, it’s unlikely that many of the people to whom this alternative is available would end up serving much if any time at the public jails. Due to overcrowding, county jails are often forced to book and release non-violent first time offenders anyway. That’s exactly what happened with Nicole Richie. There’s certainly massive inequity in our criminal justice system, but this strikes me as a fairly trivial, though sensational, aspect of that.

  3. blaark
    October 29, 2008 at 2:54 pm

    I agree that people most able to buy their way out of the real jail population would be sentenced to imprisonment anyway but Santa Ana’s website does suggest they’re currently booked up regardless. Trivial and sensational, yes, but also fundamentally wrong and offensive. Easily digested and spit out again for your amusement or bemusement.

  4. j.
    October 29, 2008 at 6:21 pm

    I think you’re missing the point. Public jails “book and release” lots of non-violent first time offenders because they can’t hold everyone they book, and holding non-violent first time offenders is a low priority relative to holding, e.g., violent and repeat offenders. My point is that many of the pay-for folks would likely fall into that group–the “book and release group”–whether or how much money they had. For the most part, all they’re really buying off is the very small chance of not belonging to the “book and release” group.

  5. blaark
    October 30, 2008 at 1:24 pm

    Maybe I’m confused by the order of events. Is it after sentencing that this is decided, by the officials of the jail and not the judge?

  6. j.
    October 30, 2008 at 10:59 pm

    That’s correct.

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