Sunday, April 29, 2007


Today's New York Times 4/29/07) reports that minor crime offenders can obtain "pay-to-stay upgrades" at a number of city jails in California. The accommodations ranging from $75 to $127 per day are cleaner and safer and allow for the right to bring certain electronics as contrasted with the those provided the non-paying clientele. The system is justified by the income it generates and sells itself to prospects on the basis "that you are isolated and you don't have to expose yourself to the traditional county system." You don't enter the jail by the same means as the non-paying guests. In other words, even though you have been adjudged a criminal, you don't have to be treated as one, if you can afford it.

Rubin "Hurricane" Carter describes life in prison as being locked in "an iron cage**** I was a prisoner, a number, ******Not a person. Not a human being. But a body to be counted fifteen or twenty times a day." Of course, his confinement followed convictions for murder, not some minor offense. But it is important to recognize the harshness of any jail or prison time and that some offenders should be treated differently--should be isolated from the repeat and violent offenders. However, that selection and segregation should not depend upon the wealth of the offender. The concept is valid but the criterion is not. Just because a criminal can afford to be a frequent flier should not result in a jail upgrade.

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