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U.S. inmates can pay for jail upgrade

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Inmates sentenced to serve time for petty crimes can pay a nightly rate to stay at a newer, small facility in Fremont, Calif., rather than an older prison filled with thousands of criminals.

The pay-to-stay program costs $155 US per night, plus a one-time $45 application processing fee.

To be approved, prospective inmates must:

  • Not have a felony conviction.
  • Not have a sex crime conviction that puts staff or other inmates at risk.
  • Not have a drug offense conviction indicative of addiction or sophisticated criminal activity.
  • Not be affiliated with any gangs.
  • Not have any major medical issues.
  • Have a doctor's note saying they do not have tuberculosis.
  • Have approval from the court that their sentence may be served at the pay-to-stay facility.
  • Have to serve a sentence of four consecutive days or less.
Approved felons will stay at Fremont Detention Facility, which can only hold 96 prisoners at any given time. Though, more than 30 prisoners rarely stay at the facility at the same time, according to documents.

Only 16 pay-to-stay inmates are allowed at any given time.

In addition to a much smaller prison population, bonuses for the participants include:

  • Having sleeping quarters separate from all the other inmates.
  • Being able to access day rooms, showers and phones.
  • Daily visiting hours from 7 p.m. - 10 p.m. on weekdays and 1 p.m. - 5 p.m. on weekends.
Mostly, future prisoners will opt for this alternative sentence because they fear for their personal safety, according to city documents. 

"Their largely media-driven fear about assaultive behavior in jail is the single biggest reason for opting for pay-to-stay," reads the document.

Fremont's is not the only pay-to-stay program in California. The state's southern half has about a dozen of these types of programs, ranging in nightly fees from $85 to $255.

In a document seeking approval for the program, Fremont officials outline its benefits for the city, placing a big emphasis on potential extra revenue.

Staff suggest a conservative estimate of $100,000 for the first operating year. 

The estimate is based on a projection of 400, two-night stays. This would bring in $124,000 in nightly fees plus $18,000 in processing costs. Staff believe administration costs will be absorbed by the existing structure within the facility. While expected revenue is $142,000, staff lowered the estimate to $100,000.

However, not everyone is a fan of the pay-to-stay system. Some critics say it creates a two-tier inmate society that benefits wealthy offenders, reports Time.

What do you think of the pay-to-stay program? Should Canadian prisons start using a similar system? 

Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below.

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