Pay-to-Stay Programs in Correctional Facilities
Approximately fifteen California jails have implemented pay-to-stay programs. These programs allow some offenders to pay a daily fee in order to serve their sentences in a city-run or privately-managed correctional facility rather than in a county jail. In some programs, benefits include assignment to a private cell with a regular door, separation from violent offenders, access to the jail’s movie collection, and the ability to carry an iPod or cell phone. The symposium contributors consider the implications of these pay-to-stay programs.
The extended post contains a more complete description of the symposium as well as links to the essays.
• Stanford Law School Professor and Stanford Criminal Justice Center Director Robert S. Weisberg argues that pay-to-stay, if it is honestly represented, could prove salutary for the criminal justice system if recognized as part of our somewhat ritualized cycle of constructive self-embarrassment over the role of wealth in criminal justice. He contends that, by increasing public awareness about incarceration costs, pay-to-stay may lead politicians to become more willing to treat criminal punishment as a regulatory system worthy of cost-benefit analysis rather than a deontological necessity.
• USC Gould School of Law Professor Kim Shayo Buchanan unpacks the gendered racial stereotypes that accompany pay-to-stay programs. She explores how the government publicizes pay-to-stay programs for wealthier lawbreakers (generally perceived as white drunk drivers) while confining tens of thousands of others in dangerous, squalid conditions.
• Loyola Law School Los Angeles Professor Laurie L. Levenson and Loyola Los Angeles J.D. candidate Mary Gordon identify five truths implicit in the influence of money in the criminal justice system that explain why—despite pay-to-stay’s superficial appeal—we must look deeper to rehabilitate our ailing criminal justice system.
• Santa Ana Chief of Police Paul M. Walters and Jail Administrator Russell Davis explain how the City of Santa Ana’s Pay-to-Stay Program fits into the City’s entrepreneurial innovations relating to its new jail. They argue that these innovations, including pay-to-stay and contract housing, have enabled the city to meet the incarceration needs of the Police Department without incurring exorbitant operational costs.
• Los Angeles criminal defense attorney and chief legal correspondent for the E! Network Shawn Chapman Holley asserts that pay-to-stay is a bad idea for defendants and that the county jail is actually a wiser choice for most defendants.
• University of Michigan J.D. candidate Bradley W. Moore contends that pay-to-stay jails show that the state cannot balance the competing concerns of the traditional theories of punishment—deterrence and retribution—under its current rubric. He proposes that virtue ethics instead be used to assess whether a criminal justice reform such as pay-to-stay should be adopted.
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