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Pay for your Prison Stay

Society has created a judicial system whereby if you commit the crime than you should do the time no matter how petty or insignificant the legal infraction. However, despite the fact that many law abiding citizens feel that this philosophy is a reasonable one many tax payers are beginning to feel the strain on their wallets. Consequently, many state prisons have begun to limit the so-called “luxuries” of short-term dwelling in their state prisons in order to save on the costs of maintaining and running such facilities.

In fact, many prisons have even begun to be independently funded by offering “upgrades” to inmates who have committed minor offenses. On April 29th 2007 it was reported in the National section of The New York Times that many state prisons in the State of California have become “self-pay” jails. For example in Orange County, not too far from the star-studded city of Los Angeles, a young woman by the name of “Nicole Brockett was recently booked into one of the jails there and paid 82$ a day to complete a 21-day sentence for a drunken driving conviction”.

The article moves on to describe that from anywhere between 75$ to 127$ a day these convicts “get a small cell behind a regular door, distance of some amplitude from violent offenders and, in some cases, the right to bring an iPod or computer on which to compose a novel, or perhaps a song”! On the City of Fullerton Police Department webpage inmates are given the option of applying for the counties Pay-to-Stay Inmate Worker Program which offers at the cost of 100$ for the first two days and 75$ for every subsequent day until the remainder of the sentence, separate housing from all other inmates.

The first week’s payment is to be paid prior to commencing one’s sentence and reception of all payments need to be processed before any completion papers are to be handed out to the inmate. While on the City of Torrance webpage the cost of their Pay-to-Stay program is a flat rate of 171$ per day which provides inmates with minimal contacts with other inmates and a few other perks. Pay-to-Stay programs can also be found in the state of Utah.

On the Washington County Sheriff’s Office webpage they announce that as of July 15th 2008 the county will be implementing a Pay-to-Stay program in order to “offset the tax payer burden in Washington County”. The costs to inmates will be of 45$ for every day incarcerated in their prisons. They also make note that “discounts” will be awarded to inmates who demonstrate “good behavior, participation in school or self help programs and for paying the entire balance in full”.

The goal of the program according to the Sheriff is to assure that the inmates return to the community more responsible than when they were sentenced to the correctional facility. Many other states have also been reported to have implemented such Pay-to-Stay programs in their correctional facilities but these fees are involuntarily accepted by the inmates as they were not given a choice in the matter. It was reported on May 23rd 2004 in the National section of The Baltimore Sun that in Klamath Falls, Oregon inmates were being charged 60$ a day to help cover the costs of their stay in prison.

Hence, unlike the fees imposed in other prisons, such as those in Orange County prison, inmates are not paying fees to improve the conditions of their stay but rather to participate in the cost of their incarceration. According to the article this sort of funding started out about 15 years ago in the State of Alabama and has since spread rapidly across the country. Evidently from the several sources cited above incarceration can become quite expensive. As most fees for staying in prison seem to vary anywhere from 45$ to a whopping 171$ per day!

Despite the fact that most of these facilities permit the Pay-to-Stay program only to individuals serving a sentence for a minor infraction, hence individuals who are only staying in the prison for a short term, the tab for such a stay can become just as expensive as going away on vacation and having to stay in a 5-star hotel!


Associated Press. (2004, May 23). Jail fees increase inmates’ debt to society. The Baltimore Sun, pp A2. City of Fullerton Police. (2000-2008). Work Furlough and Pay to Stay Inmate Worker Program. Retrieved November 29, 2008, from http://www.cityoffullerton. com/depts /police/jail/work_furlough_and_pay_to_stay. asp City of Torrance. (2004). Jail Inmate Worker Program. Retrieved November 29, 2008, from http://www. ci. torrance. ca. us/TPD/7192. htm Steinhauer, J. (2007, April 29).

For 82$ a Day, Booking a Cell in a 5-Star Jail. The New York Times, pp. B2. Washington County Sheriff’s Office. (2008, June 27). New “Pay to Stay” Program Implementation at Purgatory Correctional Facility. Retrieved November 29, 2008, from https://news. washeriff. net/2008/06/27/new-pay-to-stay-program-implemented-at- purgatory-correctional-facility/

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